Staying ahead of the taxes

Published 9:20 am Friday, November 14, 2014

When Dinah Babb took over as the treasurer in March 2010, the City of Franklin had more than $1.2 million in eligible taxes that had not been collected.

By September 2013, she’d gotten that number down to $612,059.72. By October of this year, she’d not made quite as big of a dent, but had reduced it to 605,471.25.

Most significant, City Manager Randy Martin said, was that the delinquent taxes were not growing on the current end of the collection pool. People were either paying on time or setting up payment plans so that they don’t get behind.

Martin said the department has set up policies to improve the collection process reaching back into previous years’ uncollected taxes, using all of the methods that the Commonwealth of Virginia grants treasurers toward collecting taxes. Martin also said he believes the trend is sustainable, and that the town shouldn’t get into such a position again.

Some of those methods include the DMV stop program, where it prevents the taxpayers from renewing their licenses and registration of vehicles; debt set-off, which has captured $54,906.62 in back taxes from residents who have received tax refunds or lottery winnings; Virginia Auction Company, which has returned $25,600 due to vehicle seizures; and tax sale, which is selling properties with delinquencies.

The trend has been downward. After the worst in March 2010, by August 2011, a big jump was made to $913,774.49. In August 2012, a less significant decrease occurred, at $909,647.66. Then by September 2013 another reduction of more than $300,000 occurred in the odd year.

“It is only fair to all taxpayers — to those who have paid, to collect from those who haven’t,” Martin said. “And to work with those who have difficulty.”

The statute of limitations also has reared its head on some taxes this year, and council voted unanimously back in late October to charge of $27,196.79 in delinquent personal property tax accounts for the year 2008. Those set up with payment plans, garnishments and bankruptcy stays do remain on the books, however.

Utility book charge offs from 2008 were also unanimously approved in the amount of $102,658.47, though $64,115.77 is penalty charge off. This is $18,000 less than was charged off in 2007.

Ward 2’s Benny Burgess said that the approximately $38,000 in actual charges that were written off were small compared to the total budget for utilities, at least in terms of what the utility books look like now.

Martin said this was the case, that Babb had collected somewhere between 98- and 99-percent of what was out there.

It did bring up a concern for Ward 6’s Frank Rabil. He wondered if anyone came back to town and wanted to set up an account, would they be required to pay?

City Attorney Taylor Williams said a charge off means that it’s been forgiven and forgotten, so service cannot be denied and they cannot collect anything.

“Only in government,” Rabil said.