Hardin County Tax Assessor-Collector Shirley Stephens informed county commissioners of a slow quarterly tax collection within the county that is causing rifts with one district.
According to Stephens, Silsbee ISD is facing nearly $2 million in tax deliquency collections, for which the county is taking a hit.
“Judge Caraway and I have visited with them,” Stephens said. “I have repeatedly requested that our attorney visit with them, but they have basically held back. It would certainly make our job a lot easier.”
Stephens says that Silsbee ISD is facing in excess of $1.9 million in delinquencies from property taxes that the district has failed to collect.
Stephens said that the total collection of property taxes in Hardin County from October 2012 to July 2013 was over $13.9 million. The balance due of 2012 taxes is over $740,000.
“There are lots of monies out there that need to be collected,” Stephens added. “That will help the county in helping recoup in some of their delinquencies.”
Despite the large amount delinquent, Stephens says that Silsbee ISD falls second among county school districts with a tax collection rate of $0.9441. Lumberton ISD is tops in the county with $0.9624 collection rate. Kountze ISD is the lowest with $.8889 rate.
Hardin County and most of the entities use McCreary, Veselka, Bragg & Allen, P.C. as the collection firm, but West Hardin ISD and Silsbee ISD use a different law firm for collections.
“They are waiting for the county to file a lawsuit and they will intervene,” Stephens said. “McCreary will not go out and pursue a lawsuit over property when the school district is the biggest one (with delinquent taxes). By rights, they should be the one to file the lawsuit, but because they have more to lose than the county or city, for whatever reason, that is not happening. It’s a bone of contention with them.”
Stephens said that in the past, Lumberton ISD once used its own collection firm, but signed a contract with the county to have MVBA collect while the other attorney received a portion of payment. That contract has since been exhausted.
Silsbee Supt. Richard Bain said that most of the delinquent tax involves tax rolls and other variable that go unaccounted for during the process.
The delinquent taxes go many years back, with which Bain says that the district attorney would have to sit down and find out just how far.
“We receive quarterly reports from our attorney and we were not under the impression of anything severe,” Bain said. “Our attorney is very good and they will present this to the board to find out what we can do.”
Stephens said that collections have been down as of recent throughout the county and suffered some from this same time last year.
“The collections are down, we are getting a lot of calls that ‘I just don't have the money,’ Stephens said. “We are working with them as best as we can to get this paid.”