DOBBINS HEIGHTS — At least half of the property owners in Dobbins Heights are delinquent on their tax payments, and the town plans to collect.
Kathryn Adams, the town’s tax collector, said there are currently 1,403 delinquent tax bills dating back over the past 10 years, bringing the total owed to $250,000 — more than half of the town’s 2014-15 budget.
“It’s urgent we do something about our tax collection,” said Mayor Antonio Blue.
The town council voted Tuesday to hire Zacchaeus Legal Services to begin a tax foreclosure program in an effort to bring in the uncollected revenue.
In a presentation to the town board and the few residents in attendance, Mark Bardill explained how his Trenton-based firm has helped other municipalities across the state, ranging from Tyrrell County, one of the state’s poorest counties, to the larger, more prosperous Forsyth County.
Blue said Bardill’s firm had collected in excess of $200,000 for Richmond County, just in the past several months.
Bardill said the town would be able to avoid increasing the tax rate “by collecting taxes already on the books.”
The current tax rate for Dobbins Heights is 50 cents per $100 in property value.
Adams said she sent out 863 tax bills this year, and that some people own multiple parcels of land.
“Some of the lots aren’t big enough to put anything on,“ she said. “But it’s property.”
County records show there are 892 properties within the town limits.
Some property owners who owe taxes to Dobbins Heights also owe taxes to the county. Bardill suggested the town should work together with the county to save legal fees on those cases.
Bardill told the council that foreclosure programs in other towns and counties usually result in few people being displaced, and most properties that are foreclosed on are abandoned.
Stressing due process laws, Bardill added that taxpayers would receive plenty of notice and an opportunity to settle before they become part of the foreclosure program.
“We can’t take anyone’s property without giving them notice and an opportunity to respond,” he said. “Our goal is not to sell the property, just to collect delinquent revenue.”
Bardill said those delinquent would have to pay their back taxes, court costs and attorney fees to keep their property should foreclosure proceedings begin.
“The crucial part of collecting taxes is so we can provide services,” said council member Tyre Holloway. “We’re serious about wanting to provide services for our community.”
“This is for the betterment of our town,” he said, so the town could be “proactive instead of reactionary.”
A contract with Zacchaeus Legal Services is expected to be approved at the town’s regular meeting July 10.
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-997-3111, ext. 16.