Foreclosures Lead to Late Tax Payments in Merced County

July 17, 2008 8:53:55 PM PDT
This year the property tax delinquency rate was up nearly three percent in Merced County. That means many homeowners will have to pay late fees, and the county has had to take out a loan. The housing crisis has a new consequence in Merced County.

Karen Adams/Merced County Treasurer-Tax Collector: "We're like several of the Central Valley counties and counties all throughout?We have huge foreclosures, and of course that means delinquent taxes."

Karen Adams says more than twenty million dollars in property taxes are now past due. Most of the delinquencies are homeowners in the foreclosure process or banks that have taken ownership of foreclosed properties. Even though the county has not received the money, it must still pay the agencies that it owes, including school districts and cities.

Stephen Jones/Merced County Auditor-Controller: "All the entities know about how much they're going to get and they're going to get it. The only problem is instead of getting it in December or April, they're not going to get it until June."

The county has a reserve to temporarily cover those payments when necessary. But for the first time in more than 10 years that reserve won't be enough.

Karen Adams: "Now we're having to dip into county dollars to borrow to make sure all those taxes are paid whole."

The county will eventually recover the money through late payments, or in some cases, seizures. But Adams says she's hoping more homeowners will take advantage of payment plans and other programs designed to help people pay their bills.

Karen Adams: "We're willing to work with them on payment plans, but a lot of seniors, the disabled, the blind, even low income people, there are other programs my office is instrumental in assisting people."

Adams says struggling homeowners should not only contact the Tax Collector's office, but also their mortgage companies, and even state legislators. She says the worst thing struggling homeowners can do is nothing at all.

For more information on tax payment due dates and how to get help, you can log onto: www.mercedtaxcollector.org or call 209-385-7592.
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