Petersburg making gains on collecting back taxes

Monday, July 8th, 2013 @ 7:50AM

City Treasurer Kevin A. Brown places the thick, 314-page book on his desk.

In it are 20 years of real estate tax records for the city that Brown is poring over to find the owners who are not paying taxes on their properties.

His efforts, along with a new partnership with the Sands Anderson law firm, are making strides against delinquent taxes and sending a message to residents that they can no longer avoid paying their taxes.

Last month, Brown announced the collection of the largest sum of delinquent real estate tax owed the city — $214,018 from Petersburg Regency LLC on a hotel property. That sum had accumulated since 2007.

Petersburg also collected an additional $11,000 in delinquent taxes on other properties last month.

“If you come to Petersburg, purchase property and think you’re going to pay when you want to pay, that’s not the reason to come to Petersburg,” said Brown, who was elected to his first term as treasurer in 2009.

“I am going to find a way to come after you and make you pay your taxes.”

On Friday, six properties in Petersburg will be offered for sale at a public auction because of the owners’ failure to pay real estate taxes, including two who have not paid real estate tax since 2003.

A second auction of additional properties is tentatively slated for late July.

A seventh property is no longer available for sale, since owner Barbara Smith Brant paid the back taxes on her residence in the 1500 block of Oakdale Avenue.

The other property owners have the opportunity to pay their back taxes before the auction as well, said Jim Cornwell, a partner with Sands Anderson who is conducting Friday’s auction.

All sales are subject to confirmation by Petersburg Circuit Court. The highest bidder must deposit 10 percent of its bid, or $1,000, whichever is more, and will be credited to the purchase price at the closing.

A white sign placed in front of the properties indicated they were for sale at the auction. Some are blighted, while others are not.

Cornwell said all properties are sold as is, without any warranty.

“I expect people should have done their homework before they come,” he said.

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If there is a perception that Petersburg is a place to purchase property and not pay the real estate tax, then Brown wants to change that. He said since notices of this week’s auction were released, he’s received more inquiries from property owners to learn their real estate tax status.

“Kevin is great, the type of new blood and energy our city needs,” said Linas Kojelis, a resident and business owner in Petersburg. “Kevin is modernizing the treasurer’s office and increasing its efficiency greatly. That’s important for a struggling city like ours.”

For many localities, real estate tax is their top revenue producer. Petersburg Mayor Brian A. Moore said the city plans its budget conservatively based on the amount of real estate tax they anticipate receiving.

The taxes are due quarterly in Petersburg, easier for residents than paying a large sum once or twice a year.

Moore said the city backs Brown’s efforts, while it understands that times are tough for residents.

“We’re not trying to throw people out on the street, we’re going to work with folks,” Moore said. “We’ll continue to move forward collecting the revenues that are due and work with folks that are having troubles or issues.”

But every dollar of delinquent tax that Brown collects goes back into the city.

Petersburg saw its budget cut by nearly 5 percent this year, and even collecting small amounts help, Brown said.

“We are determined to make an effort to collect this money, get it back into the city so that departments that need these funds can get the equipment, training, staff, that they need to make the city more efficient,” Brown said.

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