Hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes on a single parcel of land in the Twin Creeks Subdivision — the biggest unpaid property tax bill in Clark County for several years — are no longer outstanding.
But that’s not because the debt was paid.
Only about $76,000 actually went to the Clark County Treasurer’s Office last year, according to records. More than $403,000 in special assessments were removed from the tax ledger by a court order.
LAST YEAR: Who are the top five delinquent taxpayers in Clark County?
And, despite having about $500,000 deducted from the total debt over the past year, the property at the defunct housing project in New Carlisle is still $286,000 behind in payments and again tops the list for the most delinquent property taxes in Clark County.
The money owed on the subdivision is part of more than $800,000 that’s owed to the county by the top five delinquent taxpayers combined. Three of the five made the top five list last year, too. In Champaign County, the top five delinquent taxpayers owe nearly $180,000 combined.
The Springfield News-Sun attempted to contact all the debtors multiple times but couldn’t reach any of them for comment. Some of them are dead while some are corporations.
“If you’re not involved and staying on top of it then you really have a problem,” Clark County Treasurer Steve Metzger said of collecting late taxes. “But the county, because we all work together on this, if you stay up on it, you are going to make some progress.”
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In 2016, the top five delinquent taxpayers in Clark County owed more than $1 million in back taxes. However, Twin Creeks accounted for more than $700,000 of it.
Champaign County Treasurer Robin Edwards said her staff works hard at collecting back taxes because that money goes to schools, emergency services, townships and other agencies that serve residents.
“If people are not paying their taxes, schools don’t get their funding, fire and EMS, township, senior citizens, all of those people are depending on it,” Edwards said. “If they don’t have that money they a decrease in their budget.”
Making sure residents are current on their tax bill is a never-ending job, Metzger said.
“We have very good control of where we are at but it’s just continuous,” he said. “We get someone settled up and then someone else ends up falling behind and we work with them.”
Clark County has about 900 payment plans right now for taxpayers catching up on late taxes. His office tries to be as flexible as possible when it comes to offering payment plans, he said and knows it can be tough when someone falls behind.
“We try to offer as much support as possible,” Metzger said. “That helps a lot, it keeps them out of the step of going into foreclosure as long as they comply with it. It stops the penalties and interest and they have up to five years to pay it off.”
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Taxpayers who fall behind on their payments get ample time to catch up before they are deemed delinquent, he said, and even more time before the county considers a tax foreclosure.
But sometimes the county needs to take action, Metzger said, to make sure the county gets what it’s owed.
1. Twin Creeks — $286,728.29
Several parcels in New Carlisle were originally purchased by a Michigan investor in 2004 who intended to build several houses there. But the never-completed subdivision became defunct when he died three years later.
Trying to collect the back taxes owed for Twin Creeks has become complicated, Metzger said. One of the main reasons for this is because it remains unclear who actually owes the money.
“I would say that we would send (the bill for the unpaid taxes) to Twins Creeks,” Metzger said.
Twin Creeks LLC still owes the taxes according to the treasurer records, Metzger said. However, it’s unlikely the county will be able to collect from the limited liability corporation because the developer died years ago. The case is still in litigation between lien holders, the family and trusts.
“There were 92 acres sold, leaving 43 acres with delinquent taxes and assessments of $286,000,” Metzger said. “We will review the delinquent taxes and assessments with the county prosecutor to determine the next steps to be taken.”
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Making matters more complicated is the role the city of New Carlisle took in the project. The city ended up with several parcels from the defunct subdivision after it co-signed the bond for the project. Metzger said his office has tried to work with the city through this process.
“We came to an agreement that we would accept whatever the city wants to do to get some money back,” he said.
New Carlisle doesn’t own the parcel with the big tax bill, City Manager Randy Bridge said, and even if it did, it wouldn’t be responsible because cities are tax exempt.
“That parcel is not under our name,” he said. “We don’t owe any of that.”
But New Carlisle is still paying a different debt for Twin Creeks. The city is on the hook for $66,000 to $76,000 a year until November 2026 to repay the bond it guaranteed.
The treasurer’s office will collect the back taxes on the development at some point, Metzger said.
“I can’t really tell you when because I don’t know,” he said. “We are going to have to see what our next legal step is. We will have to get together. I think we are giving it some time here to settle out what they have done so far and then see which way we go on the balance … We want to move forward on this.”
2. Michael Morgan — $154,494.87
The second highest delinquent taxpayer according to Clark County Treasurer’s records is Michael Morgan. Morgan owns 19 parcels in Clark County and owes $154,000 on them collectively, according to public records. His properties were on the top five list last year, too.
The properties he owns are a combination of rental housing and commercial properties. He owns a commercial property at 4949 S. Pitchen Road and a residential rental property at 9000 Selma Pike in South Charleston. Calls to Morgan were not returned.
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“He’s had some active payment plans,” Metzger said of Morgan’s account. “Some of the properties most likely, if we can’t get them resolved, we will probably have to start moving them to a sheriff’s sale.”
Metzger said his office has been working with Morgan for a while.
“It’s been on-again and off-again payment plans and just trying to help him get through this but there will be a point that we are going to have to take a little further action,” he said.
3. Michael Talbert — $152,070.93
A new name on the delinquent list this year is Michael Talbert. He comes in ranked third, owing more than $152,000. He mostly owned rental properties, Metzger said and has tried to pay the taxes before he died.
Talbert has 27 delinquent parcels, treasurer records show, including 519 Rice St, which is a house.
“Michael died a few years ago and he was quite active while he was here trying to settle up,” Metzger said. “These are probably going to have to push it over to the prosecutor if nothing is set up. I don’t know if (the family) has sold any of them. Michael had a lot of rentals.”
4. Euclid Elements — $148,133.87
Euclid Elements also made the top delinquent list last year. The corporation owes $148,000 to the county for five parcels, including 504 W. Euclid Ave., according to treasurer records. All of their properties owned by the corporation are on Euclid Avenue, Clark County auditor records show.
“They’ve been through a sheriff’s sale and did not sell,” Metzger said. “Those are eligible to go on an auditor’s sale or if the land bank might take an interest in them, they can consider coming in and taking those. It just may not be a property that warrants anybody’s interest.”
It’s not uncommon for properties that have back taxes to go unsold at sheriff’s sales because the properties are often so dilapidated, Metzger said.
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“Our big problem is when we try to sell, usually it’s property that not too many people are interested in,” Metzger said. “We just had a sale (Aug. 18) that had close to 50 properties on it and I think we sold seven. Very seldom do we really have a property that is considered a hot property.”
The county has tried to sell Euclid Elements properties several times, Metzger said, but hasn’t been successful. He said the only way the county would be able to get some money back is if someone interested in the properties contacted the auditor’s office and asked for them to be put on the auditor’s sale.
5. James O. Miller — $130,542.78
Coming in at number five is James O. Miller. He owned 10 parcels that were rental properties in Enon and Springfield before he died and is behind $132,000.
“Those will be eligible to go to the prosecutor for foreclosure at the end of this year,” Metzger said.
In Champaign County, the total back taxes owed by the top five delinquent properties isn’t as high as in Clark County.
In fact, the top 10 delinquent tax payers combined owe about $400,000 less than the top five delinquent taxpayers in Clark County combined.
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Champaign County works hard to collecting taxes, Edwards said, and wants to work with the taxpayer whenever they can.
“We try to give people enough time to pay before we start the foreclosure process,” Edwards said. “We want to help the best we can under the law.”
Only the State of Ohio is on both this year’s and last year’s list. Most of the top debts were accrued in 2016.
1. State of Ohio — $64,603.33
The highest debtor in the county is the state of Ohio, according to the Champaign County Treasurer’s Office. However, the state has said previously it doesn’t owe the money.
The property in question is the Game and Wildlife farm at 1189 Short Game Farm Road near West Liberty.
“This will go before the board of tax appeal and that’s scheduled to before the board in November,” Edwards said.
The county contends the state owes it more than $64,000 in unpaid taxes. The state’s position has been that it doesn’t pay taxes to counties and doesn’t owe it any money.
Edwards said the tax board will make the ultimate decision.
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2. SRIDH LLC — $31,835.83
Also on the delinquency list is SRIDH LLC, which owes nearly $32,000, according to Champaign County treasurer’s records. SRIDH owns a building that houses the hotel at 1490 E. U.S. 36.
The corporation had been paying taxes and even paid its first half taxes last year, Edwards said, but fell behind in the second half of 2016.
“They were current,” she said. “There was also an assessment put on for lodging taxes. They have not paid the lodging taxes that were due in the second half or the other taxes that were due second half.”
3. Topvalco Inc. — $31,632.16
No. 3 on the back taxes list is Topvalco Inc. Champaign County Treasurer’s records indicate it owes a little less than $32,000.
The records show Topvalco Inc. owns only one parcel that has an outstanding balance. It’s a strip mall at 1637 E. U.S. 36 that houses a grocery store, other businesses and has some vacancies.
Edwards said she had a conversation with the owners of the property after the newspaper requested the records and they told her the money should paid soon.
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“They said they mailed a check to us but the check was lost in the mail so they are resubmitting the check,” Edwards said.
4.Keith A. Castle — $29,822.87
The treasurer records also identify Keith A. Castle as being in the top five property tax debtors in Champaign County.
The records show Castle owns eight parcels that have outstanding balances, although one is as low as $30. The highest delinquent tax is at 100 W. Maple St. which is an apartment complex in North Lewisburg. That parcel has a balance of more than $10,000.
5. Michael Dietsch — $19,753.50
Michael Dietsch’s property is an abandoned house at 716 Pindar St. in Urbana that has been through the foreclosure process, Edwards said, but the county can’t find a buyer for it.
The treasurer’s office is working to collect the debt, Edwards said, and Dietsch’s property went to a tax foreclosure but no one bid on it.
By the numbers
$723,000: The amount owed to Clark County by the top five delinquent taxpayers in the county.
$177,000: The amount owed to Champaign County by the top five delinquent taxpayers in the county.
900: Approximate number of taxpayers on payment plans in Clark County.
The Springfield News-Sun digs into public records to show you what’s really going on with your tax dollars. The newspaper annually publishes the highest delinquent taxpayers in Clark and Champaign County and watches how your tax dollars are spent.
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