Tackling a taxing problem

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When was the last time you felt the urge to applaud a tax collector?

If you have the urge now, like we have, don't fight it -- Richmond County Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick deserves it. The county's recent sale of tax-delinquent properties was an encouraging success.

It's always been tough to knuckle down on the scofflaws who have let their property taxes go unpaid, sometimes over the course of several years. So when the legendary Jerry Saul stepped down as tax commissioner in 2008 after 31 years, Richmond County needed a replacement who would carry on with vigor.

Voters chose Kendrick, who pushed in his campaign for the best training and technology possible to make sure the county tax office could track down delinquent taxpayers as efficiently as possible.

What Kendrick has been doing over the past several months is the fiscal equivalent of digging under the couch cushions for loose change. In a departure from past years, this latest property sale targeted many parcels that were tax-delinquent by amounts as little as $250 or $300. If owners owe a little in a lot of places, that can add up.

Kendrick didn't set out to totally reinvent the wheel, but he's done a fine job so far in making sure the wheel rolls like it's supposed to.

Things sure were rolling at the Municipal Building on Jan. 5. That's when the county's list of tax-delinquent properties went up for sale.

At any given time about 100 people were packed in the courtroom for the auction, with folks entering and exiting constantly. Everyone at sales like this shows up looking for a bargain.

One buyer made out pretty well. William J. Duncan bought four houses. Total price for all four: $5,408.68. He and his brothers-in-law hope to flip them for higher prices later.

One house Duncan had his eye on, but couldn't buy, was on Martin Lane. It was more than $3,500 in arrears for back taxes, more than any other listed property. It's not in a bad neighborhood -- a house just down the street from it sold for almost $130,000 just a couple of years ago.

But the house was pulled from the sale. The owner, at the last minute, rushed in to pay his taxes.

That happened with a lot of the properties originally up for sale. Especially in the week leading up to the auction, once owners got wind that their houses would be put on the block, a lot of them poured in to pay about $50,000 in back taxes.

Which is kind of the point. The government doesn't enjoy turning people out of their homes. It just wants the taxes owed. If such auctions light a fire under delinquent taxpayers, great.

In economic times like these, new property taxes are the last thing citizens need. It's much more sensible to aggressively go after the taxes that already have been levied.

And if you want to get in on the next property sale, mark your calendars now -- another auction is being planned for early March.

Comments (20) Add comment
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No_Longer_Amazed
5146
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 01/11/10 - 01:36 am
0
0
Richmond County Tax

Richmond County Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick deserves RAVES for doing this, and there are a lot more tax delinquent properties out there that need the same treatment. However, the income derived does not go very far when there is such a lack of fiscal responsibility within the rest of the ARC Government.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 01/11/10 - 03:35 am
0
0
He deserves a rave for this

He deserves a rave for this but what about the fact he still sits on the DDA in violation of State Law? And what about the bone headed choices the DDA, which he serves on, made like Trolley Studies, Parking Studies, Parking meters, inside deals that benifit fellow board members, and the list of DDA POOR CHOICES goes on and on. I applaud Steve for doing something on this tax issue (funny to see such anti-tax so-called conservatives applaud tax collection and confiscation of private property to meet tax obligations, I digress) but I cannot let folks forget that he sit on the DDA and the choices he makes as part of THAT body should be looked at without these rose-colored glasses. Steve shoud resign from the DDA and he should have when he won the election to be Tax Commissioner. Defund the Dirty Deals Authority (DDA)

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 01/11/10 - 03:43 am
0
0
FYI, I like Steve and our

FYI, I like Steve and our county needs more folks like him (young, active, and willing to serve) but he should do the right thing and get off that useless waste of tax payer money known as the DDA. GO STEVE!!!

catfish201
0
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catfish201 01/11/10 - 06:14 am
0
0
Congratulations Steve for a

Congratulations Steve for a job well done.

Steven_Kendrick
0
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Steven_Kendrick 01/11/10 - 08:25 am
0
0
Usually don't respond to

Usually don't respond to these, but this time I couldn't resist...Brad, as far as I know there is no "State Law" that prohibits me from serving on the DDA. There IS a local ordinance that prevents more that one "city employee" from sitting on a local city supported board. Former city attorney Chequita Johnson felt like that was what made my serving "unlawful." Outside counsel concluded that by Georgia Code, I was not actually a city employee because I was never hired, nor can I be fired by the city. The city just provides me funding as a constitutional officer to pay office employees and manage the Tax Commissioner's office.

Ayetidiosi
2
Points
Ayetidiosi 01/11/10 - 09:11 am
0
0
I love it when an involved

I love it when an involved person takes the time to respond to these comments. Major props Mr. Kendrick.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 01/11/10 - 09:48 am
0
0
He is an outstanding public

He is an outstanding public servant. He did his job. Hoorah!! If he were in a private sector job he would gt a paycheck. Showing up is now 100% and doing anything while you are at your job is "over the top".

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 01/11/10 - 09:59 am
0
0
Steven, comeon man, your

Steven, comeon man, your answer sounds like more BS from Byrd Warlick. Have you ever read the State Law that created the DDA's in Georgia? I have and it does say that ONE seat can belong to a memeber of the municipal governemnt, so OK lets say you are not really a county emplyee or elected official for the municipality....then tell me why DDA needs you on it? Why should TWO of the seven seats be held by government employees? Don't you think more small business owners are needed on the DDA instaed of government employees and elected officials? You no longer draw a paycheck from the blue print business right? Then why not give your Dad the seat on the DDA? Or Coco Rubio? Or Ed Presnell? Or Mr. Steele? Or any private sector person with a small business or track record downtown? Name one small business owner, besides the owner of Cafe 209, who owns an active business downtown who is on the DDA. I know you don't see the ethical problems on the DDA, you have supported the unethical behavior with your vote, but the DDA needs some people who have vested interests in downtown. Not government employees, like you and Hatney, and people who use it to benifit themselves, like King and Roberts.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 01/11/10 - 10:04 am
0
0
And Steve, thanks for the

And Steve, thanks for the reply. I think you are a good guy and I hope to see you go places in government but if I were you, I would resign from the Dirty Deals Authority (DDA) and let someone else run the parking deck committee. Which is, by the way, what the DDAs were created for.

Steven_Kendrick
0
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Steven_Kendrick 01/11/10 - 11:44 am
0
0
Typical...some folks you just

Typical...some folks you just can't have a decent discussion with, without it having to result in empty accusations and mis-information. I've said what I have to say so I'm going back to doing my job and helping the community now. Thanks for your thoughts, Brad.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 01/11/10 - 12:26 pm
0
0
From Augusta's web site, you

From Augusta's web site, you can find the city code, which contains the following:

Article 2.1 Downtown Development Authority

Section 1-4-15

The Downtown Development Authorities Law (Ga. Laws 1981, page 1744 et seq., as amended,codified as Chapter 36-42-4, Ga. Code Ann.) (The "Act"), which was enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Georgia, creates for every municipal corporation in the State of Georgia a public body corporate and politic to be known as the Downtown Development Authorities law of such municipal corporation, which will consist of a board of seven (7) directors to be appointed by the governing body of such municipal corporation for initial terms of two (2), four (4), and six (6) years and thereafter for staggered terms of four (4) years. The public body corporate and politic known as the "Downtown Development Authority of the City of Augusta" (hereinafter referred to as the "Authority"), which Authority was created pursuant to the Act, Georgia Laws 1981 p. 1744 et seq. heretofore activated, shall continue in existence. Said Act shall, by reference, be incorporated herein and made a part hereof.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 01/11/10 - 12:32 pm
0
0
NOW the part YOU need to know

NOW the part YOU need to know Mr. Tax Commissioner...There is hereby elected as members of the Board of Directors of the Authority seven (7) persons, each of whom is a taxpayer residing in the City and only one of whom may be an officer or employee of the City; END OF ARTICLE. Are you an officer or employee of the city? If so, either YOU or Hatney MUST resign or in fact, you ARE in violation of the code set down by the State Laws. I suggest you don't go with any 'outside leagl opinions' there Stave. In fact, I would suggest you all figure out which friggin way is up and start OBEYING these laws you say you are sworn to uphold as an OFFICER of the County. I mean how hard is it to do an internet search for the law? Now, if you don't consider yourself an 'officer' of the county or a 'county employee' then I suggest you explain exactly WHAT you are.

crackerjack
153
Points
crackerjack 01/11/10 - 12:45 pm
0
0
Why don't they abolish the

Why don't they abolish the DDA? And take the U.N with you.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 01/11/10 - 12:51 pm
0
0
I am sure Steve is off

I am sure Steve is off foreclosing on some property owners or doing other important non-County or State work right now being that he says he doesn't answer to the county or State for that matter, but the fact is, Byrd and the 'outside' legal team have been REALLY good at helping folks on the DDA wiggle around the law instead of running an ethical ship by giving them good advice on how to OBEy the law. The fact is, the DDA board members don't REALLY care as long as they can play the old 'we don't answer to the Commission nor do we need to obey the State laws either. If I were them, I would get a 'second' opinion before the hole is dug any deeper.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 01/11/10 - 01:00 pm
0
0
crackerjack, the DDA is

crackerjack, the DDA is needed to service the bonds on parking decks. f you read the code that created them you will see that they have WAY overstepped their authority. We just need to defund them and the problem will sort itself out.

themaninthemirror
0
Points
themaninthemirror 01/11/10 - 01:46 pm
0
0
Tax sales are good, but

Tax sales are good, but profits for the buyers of these tax distressed properties will not be recognized immediately. If the previous owner still occupies the property, the buyer has to file eviction notices, which can take up to six months to enforce, and also the previous owner still has a certain amount of time that they can pay the back taxes and redeem the property. Of course they will also have to pay stiff penalties and interest, which in turn will be paid back to the investor, so no one should think this is an easy street profit scheme. And there is no garauntee what condition the property is in. So, it's more like a crapshoot that may or may not pay off.

Native007
4
Points
Native007 01/11/10 - 02:43 pm
0
0
I like the discussion.. I

I like the discussion.. I wish Steven would have stuck around for a little longer. Maybe a nicer tone/choice of words would have enabled that. Next time we get a welcomed response let's try and keep them around. The last I read, those owing property taxes would have one year plus a few days to pay the money back plus 20% interest (Correct me if wrong).

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 01/11/10 - 03:55 pm
0
0
The DDA is just another

The DDA is just another good-ole-boy clique that stifles progress. I mean look at the laundry list of crazy ideas they have put forth in the last year alone. They are completely out of touch with most downtown business owners.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 01/11/10 - 06:05 pm
0
0
Native007, I guess he didn't

Native007, I guess he didn't like me calling it like it is. It is not opinion, the law is CLEAR and I even posted it for him (and everyone) here to read for himself. But yet somehow by quoting the actual law I am accused of making "empty accusations" and spreading "mis-information." Now you tell me how THAT works? The fact is, Steve should resign from the DDA. But he won't, unless he is forced, this is how the DDA works and you can see how they end up in the parking meter situation where anyone who questions them is called names. Steve has changed my opinion of him today. It was not great anyway because he supported Paul King when he directed a $50,000.00 sidewalk grant to his own client for a 150' sidewalk, but now he shows he has no ethics himself. I he did, he would resign before this comes back to bite him, and it will.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 01/11/10 - 06:13 pm
0
0
My point is, real leaders

My point is, real leaders don't try to figure out how to get around the law, they obey and enforce it. Why would you want to stay on the DDA when you have been elected to be Tax Comissioner? Why would you seek 'outside' cousul to counter the legal opinion of the county attorney? It just doesn't make sense and the LAW is clear.

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