ROCKINGHAM —Mark Bardill wants to be the middle man.
Bardill, the principal attorney for Trenton-based Zacchaeus Legal Services, presented to the Richmond County commissioners on Monday the benefits of hiring someone to speed up the process of collecting delinquent taxes. Zacchaeus Legal Services specializes with tax foreclosures, and Bardill has 28 years of experience in the specialty. His office performs similar services for Scotland, Lee, Chatham and Cabarrus counties.
Currently the total delinquent figure for the tax years 2003 to 2013 — including ad valorem taxes, late listings, fire fees, landfill fees and interest — is $4,405,193.
Rick Sago, county manager, also said that the collection rate for real estate in the 2013 to 2014 budget was 95.57 percent, down from 96.24 percent in 2011 to 2012. Commissioner Thad Ussery felt there was room for improvement.
“It’s a necessity that we get the (collection) percentages up,” Ussery said.
What Bardill would do, if the commissioners approve a working relatinoship, is begin to collect on delinquent revenue that is otherwise uncollectable while increasing the collection of current year taxes during the process. Doing this will help avoid increasing tax rates by collecting taxes that are already on the books.
“Most suits will settle without dispossessing anyone of their property,” Bardill said. “Of those parcels that involve a dispossession, most are vacant or have dilapidated structures. Of those with structures, only some involve a residence and even fewer involve the personal residence of the taxpayer.”
In one example, Bardill showed the board the success Zacchaeus had in Lee County in 2012. After four and half years of representing the area, they collected more than more than $2.5 million without a single dispossession of a taxpayer’s personal residence. The efforts cost Lee County only $38,000.
Bardill said that there would be plenty of notice for those properties involved. There will be a minimum of four notices over a 10-month period.
Commissioner Don Bryant asked Bardill what the costs would be on the program as well as how many years Zacchaeus would go back to collect.
Bardill said that the attorney fee would be $700 per parcel with court fees added on top of that. The fee is a lot less than what most attorneys would charge because Zacchaeus does this on such a large scale, Bardill said.
With regards to how far back Zacchaeus would reach with regards to tax years, Bardill said they would go back to however many years necessary. The statute of limitations is 10 years, but it is an affirmative defense that the taxpayer has to make.