Tax delinquencies in Garfield County rise slightly in ’09 | AspenTimes.com

Tax delinquencies in Garfield County rise slightly in ’09

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GARFIELD COUNTY – The number of Garfield County properties to be sold at public auction due to unpaid property taxes has risen slightly this year, according to a county official.

County Treasurer Georgia Chamberlain, who is the public trustee overseeing the tax-sale auction process, said she thinks the reason the numbers are up is the ongoing national recession.

“But that’s just a gut feeling on my part,” she stressed.

Pointing out that there are some 33,000 properties on the county’s tax rolls, Chamberlain noted that one important indicator is that, as of the end of September, 2008, “we were 99.25 percent collected,” whereas for 2009, the collection rate so far stands at 98.49 percent.

According to the list, the tax liens range from well under $100 to as high as $173,113 for several lots in the River Bend subdivision.

This week, Chamberlain’s office will start advertising a list of 663 properties on the “delinquent tax lists” that will go on the auction block in November unless the delinquent taxpayers show up to pay their property tax bill.

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The list will be published for three weeks in the Rifle Citizen Telegram, which is the county’s legal paper, and the auction is to be conducted on Nov. 19 by local auctioneer Doug Britten.

Delinquent taxpayers then have up to three years following the date of the tax sale to “redeem” their property with whomever bought the tax lien at the auction. That involves paying off the taxes and any interest that has accumulated at a rate of 10 percent.

Last year’s advertised list included 594, or 69 fewer than this year’s number, indicating an increase of approximately 12 percent for the 2009 auction list.

But the actual auction in 2008 involved only 163 parcels, Chamberlain said, explaining that in most cases the delinquent taxpayer comes in and pays off the tax bill before the auction.

And, while the sale values advertised last year amounted to roughly $982,000, she said, the revenue from the actual sales came to approximately $332,000.

She said that amount of revenues, roughly a third of the advertised values of the delinquent tax debts, probably is not an accurate guide for predicting the number of properties that will be sold at auction this year, or the amount of revenue that will come out of the process.

In a typical year, Chamberlain explained, around 30 or 35 bidders show up at the auction, representing either investment companies or individuals with the financial wherewithal to buy and hold the properties and keep track of the deadlines and reporting requirements that are part of the process.

“The majority are really along for the investment, the 10 percent return on their investment, not really to own the property,” Chamberlain explained.

But this year’s economic climate, she said, may mean the sale will involve “a different sort of investment.” She predicted that, because of the slow economy and rising unemployment numbers, taxpayers may take longer to redeem their properties, meaning investors will need to hold onto them longer than usual.

“I am predicting that there will be a longer time for redemption,” Chamberlain declared.

She noted that, just as the list of tax delinquency is longer this year, there already have been more than 300 foreclosures filed with the county, compared to only about 120 in 2008.

jcolson@postindependent.com