Commission Meeting Sept 30th

  • The county is going to be accepting bids for workers comp, property, and casualty insurance.
  • The college is looking to put a new surface on the walking trail and asking if the county, city and Mercy can all come together to do it.
  • The county is using a TWork’s plan to replace some bridges. The plan has take federal money & converted it to state money to reduce the amount of red tape. The program will reimburse $0.90 of every dollar for certain projects.
  • One of the three year old road-graders has a problem where pushing on the brake triggers the rear windshield wiper.
  • The newer road-graders that were recently purchased have some type of communication system so errors and maintenance issues can be viewed from a web page.

Audit Not On Commission Agenda

As of 3:15 pm today, Terry Sercer was not on the commission agenda for Friday. According to the Tribune Terry expected to have the audit done by Friday. Terry was not immediately available by phone, so it isn’t clear if the audit is complete or not.

Update: I did hear back from Terry Sercer via and he said that the Tribune had implied that he would meet with the commissioners this week which was incorrect. He is trying to get the Tribune to correct this error. Obviously he can’t comment on the audit, but it doesn’t sound like the report from the audit is finished yet.

Can Payment Plan Properties Be Sold?

When property taxes are not paid, the delinquent property is to be “bid off” to the county for the amount of unpaid taxes. This is kind of like an auction, but one where the county is the only person allowed to bid and only for the amount of unpaid taxes, interest and fees. The list is prepared in July, but the actual sale/bid off process occurs after the second Tuesday in  September and is preceded by notification printed in the paper.

Between July 1 and July 10 of each year, the county treasurer shall prepare a list of all real estate subject to sale, [ … ] . The county treasurer also shall prepare an accompanying notice stating that the county treasurer will sell the real estate described in the list to the county for the amount of the delinquent taxes and legal charges due on the real estate and that the sale will be on or after the first Tuesday of September following publication of the notice under K.S.A. 79-2303, and amendments thereto. (source)

This it he process for the county to take ownership of the land, but it is not a foreclosure process. People are still allowed to use the property until foreclosure occurs after a redemption period has passed.

If property gets left off the published list and the “bid off” that occurs in September, there is a provision for that as well.

If any county treasurer shall unavoidably omit or fail to sell any real estate for unpaid taxes on the first Tuesday of September, he or she shall advertise and sell such real estate on the fourth Monday of October next ensuing, and such advertisement and sale shall conform in all respects to the provisions of this act, and shall be as binding and valid as if such sale had been made on the first Tuesday of September. (source)

Interestingly, there is a provision for cases where property was left off the list for a given year as well.

If any county treasurer at any time discovers that any tract or lot of real estate has not been put on the list of delinquent taxes and not sold for any preceding year, the treasurer shall be required to place the omitted tract or lot on the list of delinquent taxes for the current year, and sell the tract or lot as directed by this act in other cases. (source)

So if property was left of the list in one year, it must be included the next. What that means in the case of Bourbon County is that if anyone didn’t pay taxes before 2010, were not printed in the paper for that year, but somehow managed to pay their 2010 taxes, the should have had their names printed in the paper and the property bid off to the county this year.  I’m not aware of any property that was in that specific situation, but it means that the the treasurer is allowed to add property from previous years if it is somehow left off.

Once the county owns the property, they can’t sell it until a redemption period has passed. The general provision is listed below.

(a) (1) Except as provided by paragraph (2) and subsection (b), real estate bid off by the county for both delinquent taxes and special assessments, as defined by subsection (c), shall be held by the county until the expiration of two years from the date of the sale, subject only to the right of redemption as provided by this section. (source)

There is an exception for property that is classified as a “homestead” to give it a three year redemption period instead of two. Also homestead’s can be partially redeemed whereas that doesn’t appear to be an option for non-homestead property.

Now here is where things get interesting. If property was not bid off to the county, then the beginning of the redemption period was not triggered.  If the beginning of the redemption period was not triggered, can the county foreclose and sell the property at the sheriff’s auction?  

I expected there to be some type of paper trail or some documentation attached to the deed of properties sold to the county, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I’m not trying to imply that there was something wrong with the way the bid off process occurred, it is just different than what I’d expect. It does, however, make sense that sale to the county for unpaid taxes might be different than sale to an individual. If someone tries to sell property that is owned by the county, the abstract work involves looking into any back taxes.

Obviously the redemption period is a safeguard for citizens to give them a reasonable amount of time to redeem their property.  So it isn’t something you’d want to circumvent. As a non-lawyer reading the statutes, it would appear that people with properties that were not listed in the paper would be well within their rights to ask to see proof that the property was actually bid off to the county triggering the start of the redemption period.

There is a provision in the law for cases where a name is left off of the list published in the paper. The property can still be bid off to the county even without being listed in the paper.

No irregularity or informality in the advertisement nor any error or omission in the listing of the names shall affect the legality of the sale or the title to any real estate subject to sale or sold for taxes under the act of which K.S.A. 79-2302 is amendatory, or under the act providing for judicial foreclosure and sale of realty by county. (source)

If you read the context of this statute, it appears to be referring to the “bid off” by the term sale and not the actual foreclosure where the property is sold to someone other than the county.

I asked the Bourbon County Treasurer what exactly constitues a “bid off” and “sale” in this situation. If I understood correctly it is a matter of switching all the properties over in the computer.

I did ask if properties on the payment plan that were left out of the paper in the past, had been bid off to the county and was told that they were. So according to the treasurer’s office all of the properties were correctly sold to the county regardless of whether or not they were published in the paper.

It is unclear what would constitute proof that the bid off and sale to the county occurred for a piece of property. This may be as simple as showing the computer history that indicates when the property was switched to being owned by the county. It does not appear that this information is something that can be seen from the tax search available to citizens.

So what does this all mean? Well, if you have property with delinquent taxes that was not listed in the paper for the past few years, the county is going to need to be able to prove that a bid off did indeed occur which would trigger the start of the redemption period. Obviously I am not a lawyer, so there may be precedences or other laws that would come into play.  Either way, the county needs to be careful how it handles attempting to foreclose on property that has not gone through the normal publication, bid off and sale process.

 

iPod Shuffle Giveaway

The winner of this contest has been contacted, but stay tuned for more giveaways.

FortScott.biz has a subscription option where you can get daily emails with all of the new stories for that day. To help bring more attention to this feature, we are giving away an iPod Shuffle to one subscriber.  To sign up, all you have to do is to subscribe.


The contest will run until October 11th, 2011. Here are the rules:

  • You have to be subscribed to the list to enter. That means you’ll need to type in your email address and then confirm the subscription.
  • You can enter from this link or using the form on the right hand side of the page.
  • You’ll need to come to Fort Scott to claim the prize. If you live in Alaska, this might not be cost effective for you.
  • The winner will be announced and have their picture posted to the site. This probably isn’t a good contest for people in the witness protection program.
  • If you are under 18, you’ll need a guardian to accept it on your behalf.

Corrected Scan of Payment Plan Documents

The original scan posted of the payment plan documents had 140 contracts. I mentioned at that time that there were some documents that may have double fed into the scanner as I had been billed for 143 documents. After going back through and double checking for anything that hadn’t made it to the posted PDF, I added eight more contracts bringing the total number to 148.

I apologize for the error and want to stress that it was an issue with scanning on my end of things–not something on the county side. You can download the corrected PDF using the link below.

PDF of Payment Plan Contracts

Susan emailed me to clarify why many of the contracts were not signed. Many were handled through the mail and people didn’t sign and return them after they were received. As long as the payment plan wasn’t letting people do anything that they couldn’t have done on their own, it really didn’t make a difference if they were signed or not. It may have helped people schedule out their payments, but that wasn’t something people couldn’t have done for themselves.

County Tax Sale Preparation

At the county commission meeting this morning there was some discussion about how the tax sale will proceed.

Dan Meara (who was county attorney until the end of 1985) will be handling the tax sale. Today they discussed the timelines and his contract. Mr. Meara pointed out that it is difficult to prescribe a specific timeline or to contractually agree to specific date milestones. Property where the suit is filed, but no one responds are the easiest to go ahead and sell. In many cases, property owners will go ahead and pay the amount owed when they get the notification of the suit.

Mr. Meara said he felt it would only take a few weeks to get the suits filed after he gets the information from the abstracting company.

Once the county files suit, people have to bring everything current to avoid the sheriff’s sale. It was unclear if the expiration of the redemption period or the filing of the lawsuit paperwork triggered the need to bring all taxes current.

If people do not respond to the suit, the county will win default judgement. Then those properties will need to be published in the paper three times. If the properties are still delinquent on their taxes, they will be sold. It appears that the soonest a sale could occur would be in February.

Mr. Meara will use the county postage machine and county letter head. The commissioners expressed a desire to see the sale proceed in a timely manner. Mr. Meara wants Commissioner Harold Coleman to be the auctioneer, but Harold wasn’t very interested in doing it.

The current properties that are being reviewed by the abstracting company are for 2007 delinquent taxes.   In talking with Mr. Meara, he believed that the county could auction off property with delinquent taxes from 2008 or earlier if they chose to do so.

Pay Access to County Records

Everyone has access to the basic tax search that is found here. However there are two other levels of access. For $120 per year you can get more details on each property. I believe this includes some information such as the type of construction, number of outbuildings, etc. If you are an appraiser, you can get access to the selling price of the property for $240 per year. The appraiser’s office wasn’t clear if limiting the higher level of access to appraisers was a legal requirement or just the county policy.

Not all states make selling prices public record. In some of those states charge transfer taxes based on the selling price that make it easy to calculate what the selling price was.

Currently there are 14 people with the the $240 access and 9 people with $120 access. This means the website brings in $4440 per year to the county.

Up until a month or so ago, the basic access didn’t list payments. The cost to see that information was $60 per year, but the commissioners opened that up to everyone and refunded anyone who had already paid.

List of Delinquent 2010 Taxes

Below is a link to a list of the delinquent taxes from 2010. This should be available soon on the Bourbon County website.  To the best of my knowledge this is the list that was given to the newspaper in order to print the list of names. At the end of the document are another list of names. This appears to be the people who were struck through in the original list because they were on the payment plan. This list was later printed in the paper.

List of Bourbon County 2010 Delinquent Taxes

Note: You aren’t legally allowed to use this list to try to sell things to people.

The cover letter states that the properties were to be sold to Bourbon County for the amount of taxes owed. Keep in mind that this is not the same as the sheriff’s sale. This sale means that the county owns the property, however the county isn’t allowed to sell it to someone else until the redemption period has expired. For homesteads that period is 3 years. For non-homesteads that period is 2 years.

Property owners are allowed to partially redeem their property by paying the oldest taxes due which will extend the redemption period by another year. This means that homestead owners can legally be up to three years behind on their taxes as long as they pay the oldest taxes before the redemption period expires.

 

Payment Plan Contracts

Here is a PDF of the payment plan contracts requested from the Bourbon County Treasurer under the Kansas Open Records Act.. This information is part of public records and no one is allowed to use it to try to sell things to people whose information is contained in this document.

“No person shall knowingly sell, give or receive, for the purpose of selling or  offering for sale any property or service to persons listed therein, any list of names  and addresses contained in or derived from public records…” K.S.A. 45-230(a).

The link is below:

PDF of Payment Plan Contracts

It is about 10 megs and over 100 pages, so it may take a little while to download. It is possible that a few pages didn’t scan correctly. I was billed for 143 pages, but the final count in the scanned document was 140, so there may have been a few errors in the scanning process. I haven’t gone back and counted each page.

Update 9/26: I have gone back through and located the pages that double scanned and added them to the document. There are now a total of 148 contracts. Let me stress that the scanning error occured on my side of things–not the county. I apologize for any confusion that was caused by this. If you downloaded the PDF, your version is out of date if it has fewer than 148 pages.

Keep in mind that anyone could make partial payments on the amount they owed with or without any type of plan. The payment plan tried to help keep money coming in for the county by getting people to make smaller regular payments. It mistakenly allowed people to keep their name out of the paper as well. However, the payment plan shouldn’t have changed the amount anyone paid–it just gave them a way to keep track of it and try to help guide people toward getting the delinquent amounts paid off.

There are a lot of documents here, but some thoughts from initially scanning through them:

  • Why are most of them unsigned? – Update 9/26: The treasurer said that many people didn’t send them back signed.
  • Why are some of the payment terms for longer than one year?  I thought the payment plan let people pay things off in a single year because anything longer would just put people more and more behind.
  • The monthly payments seem very “round”. Were they just based on what people said they could pay?
  • In at least one case, the payment plan was used to pre-pay on the following years taxes.

Redemption Periods and Sheriff’s Sale

When property has taxes that become delinquent, it becomes owned by the county. However there is a redemption period before the county can actually sell it to someone else. This period is 2 years for most property and 3 years for a homestead.

It appears that once the redemption period is over, the only way to keep the property from going for a tax say is to pay the entire amount that is delinquent. If this is the case, then any homestead property that has ever been three years delinquent should go up for sale.

The relevant law is 79-2401a. In the past, it appears that bourbon county property only went to a sheriff sale if the taxes were more than 3 years outstanding at the point that the properties were submitted to the court.

Here is the first section of the statute:

(a) (1) Except as provided by paragraph (2) and subsection (b), real estate bid off by the county for both delinquent taxes and special assessments, as defined by subsection (c), shall be held by the county until the expiration of two years from the date of the sale, subject only to the right of redemption as provided by this section. Any owner or holder of the record title, the owner’s or holder’s heirs, devisees, executors, administrators, assigns or any mortgagee or the owner’s or holder’s assigns may redeem the real estate sold in the sale at any time within two years after the sale by paying to the county treasurer the amount for which the real estate was sold plus the interest accrued, all delinquent taxes and special assessments and interest thereon that have accrued after the date of such sale which remain unpaid as of the date of redemption and costs and expenses of the sale and redemption, including but not limited to, abstracting costs incurred in anticipation of a tax sale.

Those are the rules, but the time period only applies to non-homestead property. The exceptions that it mentions related to homestead property are:

      (b) (1)   Except as provided by paragraph (2), real estate which is a homestead under section 9 of article 15 of the Kansas Constitution and all real estate not described in subsection (a) shall be held by the county until the expiration of three years from the date of the sale and may be redeemed partially by paying to the county treasurer the amount of taxes for which the real estate was sold for one or more years, beginning with the first year for which the real estate was carried on the tax-sale book of the county plus interest at the rate prescribed by K.S.A. 79-2004, and amendments thereto, on the amount from the date the same was carried on the sale book. Upon payment and partial redemption, the time when a tax foreclosure sale may be commenced shall be extended by the number of years paid in the partial redemption.

Now if (b)(1) provides an exception to the redemption period rules and merely extends it to three years while allowing partial redemption during those three years then once an account is three years delinquent, it must be paid in full to prevent a tax sale. If (b)(1) modifies the entire redemption process, it possibly may allow partial redemption any time up to the sale. That seems unlikely because such an interpretation introduces an oddity with this sentence:

Upon payment and partial redemption, the time when a tax foreclosure sale may be commenced shall be extended by the number of years paid in the partial redemption.

Assuming that (b)(1) is modifying the entire redemption process, then the above sentence would appear to allow an individual whose home was not on the tax sale for a few years to be continually behind 5, 6, 7 or more years and only pay the oldest year without giving the county the ability to ever foreclose on the property.

Also worth noting is that (b)(1) appears to allow for a partial redemption only for non-homestead properties as partial redemption is not mentioned in (a)(1).

If indeed the partial redemption is only available within three years, there are going to be a very large number of properties where people are going to have to pay all of the delinquent taxes or have their real estate sold at the next sheriff’s sale.

9/23 Bourbon County Commission Notes

Here are some notes from the commission meeting on September 23rd.

  • Running Fox oil company wants to know how much it would cost to use the county right of way to run a line. They were told $20 per rod or about $25,000 for four miles. The commissioners felt this could be a good way to bring in some funds.
  • The budget from the current sewer project is extremely tight and more money may need to be borrowed to complete it.
  • Bourbon county is in the lead for the energy contest by a small amount. Everyone in the room was given a CFL lightbulb to install to help make progress toward winning.
  • Drywood township had some grant money available to put in a tornado siren, but couldn’t reach consensus on who would be responsible for operating and maintaining it, so the funds will be returned to the grant.
  • Terry Sercer hasn’t completed his report or compiled his data yet.
  • The commission doesn’t know how much the audit is costing per hour.

More Questions and Answers From Treasurer

I spoke with Susan Quick today and asked about a few questions that have come up. The answers are the way I understood them and are not an actual transcript so inaccuracies are my responsibility.

Why don’t we see partial payments online for people on the payment plan?

The older version of the software didn’t allow partial payments, so the partial payments were put into an escrow account and brought over when there was enough to pay off the full amount. The newer version does support partial payments, so eventually we’ll start seeing partial payments on the public website.

Was everyone not on the payment plan printed in the original listing in the  paper and was everyone on the paper left off? (Basically asking if everything was consistent from person to person.)

Yes.

There are allegations that thousands of dollars of interest were “written off” and not collected. Were there any circumstances where non-trivial amounts of interest were ignored?

No. The amounts written off were  small amounts where the cost of tracking down the additional fees would have cost more than what would have been collected.

Even though the payment plan is gone, can people come in and make partial payments?

Yes. People can make partial payments. It will be applied to the interest first and then to the principle.

So people can basically create their own “do it yourself” payment plan if they need more time to pay?

Yes. The treasurer’s office can accept partial payment so people can come in and pay smaller amounts toward the amount they owe.

Fort Scott News

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