Tax sales get results
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.