2011 Tax Sale Could Be as Bad as the Last

By Guy Leonard, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. — Staff in the office of St. Mary's County Treasurer Jan Norris are busy getting ready for this year’s tax sale and Norris says that there are already 676 properties to be advertised on the list for the 2011 sale.

And while many of those properties will have the taxes owed on them paid before the actual sale this fall, Norris said that she expects to see as many property accounts go unpaid for sometime, meaning either missed or lagging revenue for the county government.

The last tax sale saw 361 accounts actually go to sale, but 121 of them received no bid, Norris said.

Norris said she expects perhaps as many properties to go to sale this time around, as well as a similar number to go unpurchased.

“Which is not a good thing,” Norris said.

In just the past few years the number of properties up for bid at auction on the tax rolls has dramatically increased, as more and more property owners cannot pay what they owe the county.

For the 2008 tax sale there were just 85 properties up for bid, Norris said, and all of them found a buyer.

“There were plenty of bidders out there, they were fighting over the properties,” Norris said, lamenting the new economic landscape in the county with many more properties on the list and too few buyers.

While the amount the county lost out on last time, nearly $188,000, was just a small fraction of the entire estimated $120 million tax roll, Norris said that it was still an economic indicator.

And that indicator showed that while some have hoped for economic recovery in one of the nation’s worst recessions, that hope has gone unfulfilled.

“It’s an indicator of the times,” Norris said, adding that failure to pay taxes now meant even more expense for those in arrears later.

Sean Powell, head of the county assessors office, said that while some have struggled in paying property taxes, and for all the complaints about higher property taxes, the recent drop in state assessments have kept the number of property tax appeals low.

“We have valuations that most people are comfortable with,” Powell told The County Times.

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