The top five debtors owe Champaign County a total of more than $652,000 in unpaid property taxes — including a former manufacturing plant, businesses and even a state-owned property.
Now county leaders want to take a more vigorous approach to collecting delinquent taxes.
Champaign County Treasurer Robin Edwards is working closely with Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi to speed up the process.
“It’s not necessarily a new system, it’s a system that we needed to be more aggressive with,” she said. “We are just making sure the things keep flowing and nothing gets stopped mid-stream.”
The prosecutor’s office has reduced the number of unpaid accounts, Talebi said.
“We have tried to make it more of a priority,” he said.
That’s critical in order to make sure the county, schools and other local governments get the taxes they’re owed so they can better serve residents, Edwards said
“Those levy taxes … are funds that these taxing districts depend on to run the school, fire department and other agencies,” she said. “It helps those with disabilities and the senior center.”
Q3 again biggest debtor
The troubled manufacturing plant Q3 JMC INC. tops the list again this year for owing the most back taxes to Champaign County. Q3 now owes more than $261,700 to the county.
Q3 went out of business several years ago and the property has long been vacant. A fire last year caused significant damage.
Community leaders have taken action recently to clean up the eyesore. The Champaign County Board of Revisions agreed to turn over the property to the city of Urbana in 2015. However, Edwards said the transaction hasn’t been completed and Q3 still owes the money.
County Commissioner Steve Hess previously told the Springfield News-Sun the Q3 property needs cleaned up.
“It’s a project that needs to be done,” he said. “I don’t think anyone would argue with that.”
A contact for Q3 listed in Ohio Secretary of State business documents couldn’t be reached for comment.
Business No. 2 on unpaid taxes list
No. 2 on the delinquent list is AVCAP Urbana, owner of the building on Scioto Street that houses CVS, Taco Bell and other businesses. It owes more than $127,400.
Sara Dudley with AVCAP said the business is working with county officials to pay back the debt.
“We are kind of in the middle of getting it all fixed,” Dudley said. “It’s not fully set up.”
Dudley declined further comment. Edwards said AVCAP will be set up on a payment plan where the business can pay the bill while paying current property taxes over the next five years.
Edwards said the county will work with businesses and taxpayers to help them catch up on their taxes.
State property ranks 3rd for delinquent taxes
The State of Ohio is on the list at No. 3, currently owing Champaign County more than $97,000 for its Urbana Wildlife Unit property at 1189 Short Game Farm Road.
The division is working to get the debt off the books, said Brian Plasters, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division.
The property lost its tax-exempt status during a re-evaluation in 2013, Edwards said, because county officials believed the land was leased or otherwise used to make money.
The agency has applied to regain its tax-exempt status because it’s only using the land to raise pheasants for hunting, Plasters said.
“We are trying to resolve it,” Plasters said.
State-owned property is typically tax exempt, Edwards said, but the state is considered delinquent until the money is paid or the debt is forgiven.
The state of Ohio has been delinquent since 2014, according to the treasurer’s records.
“The state of Ohio has applied for exemption status so they are working on that currently,” Edwards said. “So this may all come off.”
On the delinquency list at No. 4 is a debt that dates back to 1997. North Coast Properties of Champaign County has appeared on the list before and now owes Champaign County more than $94,900 in back taxes.
A total of five properties in Mechanicsburg are listed under North Coast Properties. One of the vacant lots on North Main Street in Mechanicsburg was most recently a laundromat.
A contact for North Coast listed in Ohio Secretary of State business documents couldn’t be reached for comment.
A debt that goes back that far is unacceptable, Edwards said.
“These have been delinquent for quite some time and I have the prosecutor’s office working on these properties,” Edwards said. “We definitely don’t want them to run that long.”
Estate owes taxes
Last on the list for the top five biggest unpaid property tax debts is Barbara Packer, who Edwards said is recently deceased.
Packer owned several rental properties in Urbana, including on Russel Street, Edwards said, and her office has been in contact with Packer’s family to pay back the more than $71,000 owed.
That amount will have to be payed back from her estate, Edwards said.
While the treasurer’s office is working to quickly resolve certified delinquent properties, she said officials must go through a lengthy process first.
“The first step is we send a treasurer’s letter,” to the property owner, Edwards said. “We give them 30 days to respond to that. Then if they don’t respond to that, we turn it over to the prosecutor giving them so many more days. If they don’t respond to that, normally what happens is we start the tax foreclosure process at that time.”
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