Properties going back to the state
By Dwayne Bremer
Sep 13, 2013, 22:32
More than 1,000 parcels of property were struck back to the state because of unpaid taxes after last month's tax sale, a number which local leaders say is "alarming."
Hancock County Chancery Clerk Tim Kellar said Wednesday that the properties going back to the state cost the county more than $250,000 in revenue this year alone.
"Before Hurricane Katrina, we averaged about 100 properties going back to the state," Kellar said. "This year, the number was up more than 800 percent. Next year, we are looking at about 1,600 properties."
Tax sales are conducted every August.
If a property owner does not pay his or her taxes, the property is sold to bidders starting at the price of the tax bill. If nobody bids on the property, it is struck to the state. After three consecutive years of the property being struck to the state, the property is deeded to the Mississippi Secretary of State's office.
Most of the properties are in the southern part of the county, officials said.
Kellar said he believes there are several reasons why so many properties are going back to the state.
"First, you have to look at the economy," Kellar said. "Then there is insurance and elevations concerns. A lot of tax buyers are simply cutting their losses because they don't feel they would be able to get anything for the property."
Once the property is deeded to the state, it can be made available to the public for purchase.
Kellar said the secretary of state offers the property for sale on its website, www.sos.ms.gov.
"They sell the property for the taxes owed or half of the appraised value," he said. "People can find some good deals and obtain property fairly cheap."
Once the property is sold, it goes back on the tax rolls and the county begins collecting taxes once again.
Kellar said he feels the large numbers of properties going back to the state will eventually level off, but for right now, it is important to get the public involved to know there are good deals available.