County may go online for tax sale

Published 7:01 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Warren County Tax Collector’s office would like to go into contract with a company to provide online tax sales.

Tax Collector Antonia Flaggs-Jones met with the Warren County Board of Supervisors during their Monday working session to discuss and provide information on how the process would work and the benefits the county could gain.

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Flaggs-Jones said she has been gathering information for nearly a year from “to be more creative and bring us into the new millennium.”

She said it would be more convenient for those who want to participate in the tax sale and also create more involvement.

“With an online tax sale, anyone who has a smartphone, tablet, or computer would be able to view the tax sale just like they would if they came up here and sat all day,” Flaggs-Jones said.

She said it would also be more efficient for the tax collector’s office.

“It would free up time for my staff having to man the tax sale all day,” Flaggs-Jones said. She said it takes a great deal of preparation on behalf of the tax collector’s office to conduct the tax sale, which will be held Aug. 27.

She said the tax sale used to run from about 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. when she first began in the tax collector’s office in 2009, “but now the tax sale takes at least two days.”

She said the reason is because that there are several more out-of-town investment companies that participate in the tax sale wanting to over-bid every parcel.

“From a $20 parcel to a $5,000 parcel,” Flaggs-Jones said. The over bidding extends the length of the time of the sale, according to Flaggs-Jones, who added that other tax collectors she has spoken with are noticing an increase in the investment companies overbidding on parcels.

She said in years past, the county would receive $5,000-$10,000 in overbid revenue, but that number has steadily increased and was more than $80,000 in 2017.

By using Gov.Ease, pre-bids could be taken online the Saturday before the tax sale, similar to how bidders participate in eBay.

“You will be able to know in real time that you received that particular parcel,” Flaggs-Jones said. “You will also be able to keep up in real time how much money you’re spending if you’re bidding on multiple parcels. Currently, that is not possible because we are literally writing down each bidder number and bid amount on books.”

She said it currently takes a week or more to compare the books, enter the bids into the system and finalize the sale.

“That’s taking me and two other ladies off the regular day-to-day stuff to handle just the tax sale,” Flaggs-Jones said.

Using the online system would free up the tax collector’s office staff, send the money into the county’s bank account quicker and create more local participation. According to Flaggs-Jones, among the 77 bidders who participated in the tax sale in 2017, 24 were local. She said about half of those local bidders are seeking one particular parcel, while the other half “have found out the tax sale is a good way to invest their money.”

She said those bidders will usually choose 3-5 prime parcels but the out-of-town investors will overbid on those parcels.

“One of my biggest concerns has been our local investors because I want to be true to the locals, as well as the ones coming in from out of town,” Flaggs-Jones said.

She said area maps of the parcels can also be viewed online through the Gov.Ease system “so you can see what you are bidding on.”

She said participants would pre-register like they currently do, but can also pre-register online. She said the tax collector’s office will still be hands-on in accepting the bidders.

She said a tutorial process would be conducted and advertised in the paper prior to the actual tax sale the last Monday in August.

She said there is no cost to the county, but the company would receive a percentage of the overbid amounts to cover their costs.

“It’s not like we would be spending money,” Flaggs-Jones said. “This is money we haven’t generated in the first place.”

The supervisors are expected to vote on the matter in the near future.

“This is more inviting, more wide open, more convenient and creates more competition,” Board of Supervisors President Richard George said.