Dobbins Heights to pursue back taxes

Town hires tax foreclosure expert to pursue an estimated $250,000 owed

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

DOBBINS HEIGHTS — The elected leaders of Dobbins Heights voted on Tuesday during a special public meeting to hire a Trenton law firm to collect as much of the $250,000 in delinquent taxes residents owe the town.

Some of the debt dates back to 1999, said Kathryn Adams, town tax collector.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Town Clerk Mary Magee looks on as Mark Bardill of Zacchaeus Legal Services address Mayor Antonio Blue and the Town Council Tuesday during a special public meeting to address delinquent taxes.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Town Clerk Mary Magee looks on as Mark Bardill of Zacchaeus Legal Services address Mayor Antonio Blue and the Town Council Tuesday during a special public meeting to address delinquent taxes.

By a unanimous vote, Mark Bardill of Trenton-based Zacchaeus Legal Services will spearhead the effort to increase the town’s tax collection rate to above 90 percent.

According to the state Department of Treasury, the town’s total property tax collection rate was 62.65 percent in Fiscal year 2012-13 and 63.18 when excluding motor vehicles from the data. Comparatively, the cities of Rockingham (96.24 percent and 97.68 percent) and Hamlet (94.08 percent and 96.06 percent) were significantly higher.

Collecting taxes long past due will help town leaders avoid having to raise taxes on the majority of residents who do pay their taxes on time, officials said.

Bardill is to present the town with a draft agreement as early as next week, in time for the council’s consideration at the July 10 public meeting. The agreement will not have any impact on property owners within town limits who currently have an established partial payment arrangement at Town Hall. Adams said there are 15 such property owners with such arrangements.

Any agreement is partially contingent on a modification of Bardill’s arrangement with the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, for which Bardill has worked since early this year. In only a few months, Bardill noted he had collected more than $200,000 in delinquent taxes to add to the county’s coffers.

“It is an urgent need that we do something about our tax collection,” Blue said.

After a 19-minute closed session during which council members discussed the agreement, they reconvened in open session to approve the selection of Bardill’s firm.

“This is for the betterment of the town,” said Councilman Tyre Holloway. “I truly believe that (this) is something that we need. A critical part of collecting taxes is to provide services.”

Mark Bardill explains that the goal is to get property owners current on their tax bills, not for the town to dispossess residents of their homes.

Mark Bardill explains that the goal is to get property owners current on their tax bills, not for the town to dispossess residents of their homes.

Without the money, Holloway said, those services can’t be provided. That includes the basketball court Blue recently closed after town resident Quentin Gore expressed concern about being injured while playing on the court at Dobbins Heights Community Park.

Blue said it would cost about $35,000 to repair the dilapidated court, or $50,000 for a new one. The town has said along with collecting back taxes, officials are pursuing grants with different potential funding sources in order to pay for a new basketball court, a new tennis court and possibly even new playground equipment. This is in addition to the new community center, on the adjacent property, currently under construction.

Adams said she’s hopeful town residents learn of the effort to collect back taxes and decide to pay up long in advance of any action in court.

“I think this is going to shake a lot of people” into approaching Town Hall with payment, she said.

Bardhill, for his part, hopes that to be the case. Though his firm only gets paid if  lawsuit is filed against a property owner, the goal is to increase the tax collection rate for the town — not to have the town own any more property than it already does within town limits.

Bardill offered town officials a brief slideshow in which he presented a cost-effective plan to increase the town’s tax collection rate and get property owners right with the town. He said Zacchaeus Legal Services has 28 years’ experience in tax collection and works with surrounding governments, including Scotland, Richmond and 16 other counties and seven North Carolina municipalities.

Mark Bardill tells Dobbins Heights leaders his is a cost-effective method of increasing the tax collection rate.

Mark Bardill tells Dobbins Heights leaders his is a cost-effective method of increasing the tax collection rate.

Bardill said his firm allows each property owner every entitlement under due process laws but the outcome is simple: “We can collect delinquent revenue that is otherwise uncollectible for Dobbins Heights,” he said.

In a cost-saving effort, Bardill suggest that town officials tentatively approve the idea of filing joint measures with Richmond County government against certain property owners. This would allow both government bodies to save some money on filing fees by splitting the expense on a joint filing. That element still requires the approval of the county commissioners, Bardill said.

 

 

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  • Neicey

    I think this is great. It is about time that they, being the landowners, have some pride about what their parent left to them after their struggles.

    If they would invest in their homes like they do their cars that area would be a great place to live

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