Tax sales get re­sults

The Delhi News-Record - - FRONT PAGE - MONTE SONNENBERG MSon­nen­berg@postmedia.com

Nor­folk’s hard-line on ar­rears has got the at­ten­tion of lo­cal tax lag­gards.

County ar­rears had crept north of $13.5 mil­lion in 2011 when Nor­folk coun­cil de­cided to give the tax sale process a work­out.

Since then, ar­rears have shrank steadily even as the county’s to­tal in­come from prop­erty taxes has grown. At the end of 2016, ar­rears stood at $8.7 mil­lion.

The find­ings are con­tained in a report from Sue Bough­ner, Nor­folk’s tax collector and man­ager of rev­enue and tax­a­tion.

“It’s prob­a­bly down 40 or so per­cent from what it was,” Mayor Char­lie Luke said Mon­day last week. “Am I sur­prised we’ve come as far as we have? Yes I am. These fig­ures have con­tin­u­ously gone down in the right di­rec­tion. If you make the ef­fort you get the re­sult.”

The to­tal taxes and penalty out­stand­ing has de­clined each year since 2011” Sue Bough­ner, Nor­folk’s tax collector and man­ager of rev­enue and tax­a­tion

Nor­folk County was en­dur­ing a dif­fi­cult time when it de­cided to tackle its ar­rears prob­lem head-on.

A fire at Gover­nor Sim­coe Square pre­sented coun­cil with an ex­pen­sive, un­ex­pected re­pair. Coun­cil was meet­ing in the multi-pur­pose room at Tal­bot Gardens when it de­cided that delin­quent taxes had got out of hand.

The county be­gan by hir­ing a col­lec­tion of­fi­cer on a short-term con­tract. Mean­while, the hard cases were re­ferred to the tax sale process.

Over the past six years, Nor­folk has put numer­ous delin­quent prop­er­ties on the block for out­stand­ing taxes. This has fre­quently prompted own­ers and mort­gage hold­ers to cut last-minute cheques.

Ar­rears as a per­cent­age of rev­enue have fallen dra­mat­i­cally. When ar­rears hit the $13.5 mil­lion mark in 2011, Nor­folk ex­pected to col­lect $86.3 mil­lion in taxes.

Last year, the county ex­pected to col­lect $100.4 mil­lion in taxes. Mean­while, the year ended with $8.7 mil­lion in ar­rears.

“The tax ar­rears col­lec­tion process con­tin­ues to achieve favourable re­sults,” Bough­ner says in her report.

“The to­tal taxes and penalty out­stand­ing has de­clined each year since 2011 when the cur­rent col­lec­tion process was im­ple­mented. This is due in large part to staff’s ef­forts to closely mon­i­tor prop­erty tax ac­counts that are three or more years in ar­rears. Our pri­mary fo­cus is to con­tact and work with prop­erty own­ers to make pay­ment ar­range­ments.”

Bough­ner notes that the Wynne gov­ern­ment this spring em­pow­ered mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to en­ter ar­rears prop­er­ties into the tax sale queue after two years of delin­quency. This is down from the pre­vi­ous three-year thresh­old.

Luke says Nor­folk coun­cil would have to ap­prove the re­duced time­line be­fore this be­came county pol­icy.

Nor­folk County staged three tax sales in 2016. The next is sched­uled for Nov. 9 and could in­volve as many as 20 prop­er­ties.

For those in Nor­folk who pay their taxes in in­stall­ments, they were due Aug. 31. The fi­nal in­stall­ment in 2017 is due Oct. 31.

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