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Friday, December 12, 2008

Property Taxes to supplement Sales Tax?

A recent news story stated that increased property taxes may be needed because sales tax revenue is down in Utah. This may not be a bad idea if the collection of property taxes and the prosecution of tax scofflaws were effective in Utah and Weber County. How can the county increase property taxes when they don’t seal off the loopholes used by land owners to avoid staying current on their property taxes?

My husband and I live in Ogden Valley. Fourteen months ago we brought to the attention of Commissioners Craig Dearden and Jan Zogmaister the fact that both the Weber County Planning and the Building Permit departments were granting construction petitions to developers and builders despite the fact that the petitioners had delinquent property taxes on their property. To our knowledge there still has not been any action taken to remedy this situation. In addition, we also found out that many multiple property owners in the county are claiming the primary residence tax exemption on more than one piece of property. These two problems certainly cost Weber County many thousands of dollars in revenue and restrict the cash flow into County coffers.

Despite several additional direct letters to our Weber County Commissioners on these matters (with no response), it appears that the good old boys and girl of the County Commission will continue to ignore these facts and will not take any definitive steps to close off these loopholes to improve county tax collections.

One has to wonder if every citizen did not pay their property tax on time like these scofflaws, what the revenue stream would look like for Weber County. The fine for late payment should be at least 20% for delinquent property taxes in Weber County and developers should not be granted new permits to develop or build within the county until they are current on their existing property taxes.

What makes this all so ironic, is at a general meeting in Ogden Valley over a year ago about property taxes, a Deputy Tax Assessor opened the meeting by saying to about 500 residents that the biggest property tax problem in Weber County is UNCOLLECTED PROPERTY TAXES!

Sharon Zini

13 comments:

BenJoe said...

Very interesting. My brother purchased a home from a developer who was about to go under. He has lived there now a year. Yesterday I was helping him with some tax issues and I noticed that the developer has a year behind on the property taxes, even though my brother is up to date. That is nearly $2,000 that Weber county is missing out on.

Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Sharon,

The County Commission already put language to address your concern in the Weber County Subdivision Ordinance. I quote, "Tax Clearance: The county may withhold an otherwise valid plat approval until the owner of the land provides a tax clearance letter indicating that all taxes, interest, and penalties owing on the land have been paid"

Please see the following link:

http://www.co.weber.ut.us/wiki/index.php/Subdivision_Ordinance#1-8_Final_Plat_Requirements_and_Approval_Procedure

It might be helpful to do some research before you make false accusations. However, the Ogden Valley Forum appears to be full of nothing but rumors, accusations, and hate, so I'm not surprised.

I don't think that the true character of the Ogden Valley is reflected here at all. What say ye Ogden Valley residents?

Squirt said...

The "Anonymous" comment writer must not have read the prior comment from Ben Joe.

In addition, the comment from "Anonymous" above does not address the question of why only subdivisions are addressed by this change and why doesn't it cover all developers and builders that owe thousands to Weber County in delinquent property taxes? This cash flow problem not only impacts the County, it impacts both education funding and the state of Utah's cash flow

The simple fact is the County has been lazy and unwilling to do their job to collect the delinquent taxes that are owed and then indicates we have to go into the Rainy Day fund to make up a shortfall.

Wouldn't it be nice if the Weber County leaders just did their job by plugging all the loopholes regarding tax collections before they have to dip into the rainy day funds.

It appears it is easier to criticize the people that expose this problem, than to confront the good old boys and make them pay the taxes that they owe. It apparent it is better for some to curse the darkness than to light a candle.

Anubis Ra said...

I think Sharon is right on the money!

The subdivision ordinance was a token bone to get the pressure off regarding the ineffective job the County is doing in collecting delinquent property taxes. Even the small step forward in collections, took over a year to get implemented through the foggy bottom of the Weber County process even though it is a no-brainer to deny further County planning services to anyone who has failed to pay their delinquent property taxes.

If you are going to improve collections, it should affect all property tax delinquents, not just subdivision developers! This delinquent tax information is available in the public tax records for all to see. All you need is the parcel number and you can find out how many delinquent tax payers and how long they have gone without paying their property taxes.

To sum it up, the Deputy Tax Assessor of Weber County told about 500 residents last year in Ogden Valley that the biggest problem in Weber County is uncollected Property Taxes. Yet, there are those that think the real problem is those who criticize the County for their failure in getting the taxes collected.

Sharon Zini said...

Dear Anonymous:

I have done my homework. The subdivision ordinance “Tax Collection” section you quoted is under “Final Plat Approval” for larger subdivisions and as far as I can tell was added in May 2008. It does not state that the County “shall” assure that all delinquent taxes and penalties are paid before final approval, the ordinance says “may”. The ordinance does not ensure that the developer pays his/her delinquent property taxes on those previous phases of the development already approved. And it does not appear to address “mini-subdivisions” in the tax collection requirement. If you want current examples check the County property tax files for some of the larger subdivisions under development.

Building permits are sometimes granted without delinquent property taxes being paid. Someone from the Weber County Building Permit department told me they rely on a lending institutes to catch back taxes. They don’t have time to verify current taxes before issuing building permits. Not everyone goes through a bank or other lending institute to finance building a home. Also, lots can change ownership through a variety of ways (quit deed being one example) and the property taxes remain delinquent....sometimes for several years. Again examples are in the County records.

I personally brought these delinquent property tax issues to the attention of two of the County Commissioners directly in the summer of 2007 (with examples), and it seems to have resulted in a one line addition “Tax Collection” to the Subdivision Ordinance in May, 2008 which is appreciated. But it falls far short of addressing the overall delinquent property tax collection problem for the County.

As was noted in some of the earlier comments, delinquent property taxes negatively affect the cash flow for schools, public safety and numerous other County services. Developers and builders should not be permitted to operate on the back of Weber County citizens!

I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect the County leadership to take decisive action to get the delinquent taxes collected before they dip into the “rainy day” fund or consider increasing any other taxes!

Sharon Zini

Machman said...

This is a Statewide problem and not just a Weber County problem. So why the support for Froerer, a lapdog of the Realtor and Developer lobby? It is rather obvious that plugging this loophole in developer tax debts is in the best interests of the citizens of Utah. Yet Froerer, does not mention nor address any "plugs" in this loophole in any of his Property Tax proposal?

Why? Because he represents the Realtor/Developer lobby and NOT the citizens of District 8 nor the State.

Whistler said...

I guess that Machman would rather curse the darkness than light a candle. Who cares if it may be all over Utah? We know for sure it is in Weber County! If Machman would like to continue to pick up the tab for these Weber County tax scofflaws, be our guest. We should expect our County leaders to make sure all the taxes are collected on time instead of letting these people live off of other taxpayers. This problem is easily solved by raising the late tax penalty so it is higher than they can get from investing the money and paying the taxes late.

Machman said...

Curse the darkness my ass! I curse the graft and corruption in Utah government and its legislature. If it is not graft and corruption one is left with only incredible institutionalized stupidity. If you want to call it the "darkness", I will concede the point and agree with you "Whistler".

How about THIS for Froerer's next tax bill. Set a minimum property tax (lower cap) for "Greenbelt" or FAA agricultural property at $100 per acre instead of the 16 PENNIES an acre these tax scofflaws have made legal for themselves to pay. This would result in a net increase to Weber County coffers of more than $110,954,723 (Millions) dollars. And it would enable a much long overdue "shift" of tax burdens from large land owners and developers, to residents and the majority of Froerer's constituents, for a change.

This, of course, would anger all those who are holding investment (non crop producing) properites and the developer friends of the legislature. But the "Greenbelt" law has been prostituted and tampered with so badly that today it is no longer recognizable as the original, circa 1963, intent to assist farmers, who actually produce foodstuffs/crop production, from subdivision encroachments with much higher property tax assessments.

Folks, an example is property parcel number 12-012-0001. It is a non crop producing 226.53 acre parcel, 2007 valued at $5,663,250 but only $3,171 was taxable (per Greenbelt claims) resulting in only $35.51 in Property Taxes paid. Folks, that is only 15.6 cents an acre.

But take heart tax payers! This year the same property is suddenly only worth $1,310,750, according to the County Assessor, with only $3,398 taxable (after bogus Greenbelt claims), making the grand total of Weber County Property Taxes paid, a MASSIVE (hold it ----wait for it....) $36.51 (or 16 CENTS an acre!!)

If we all knew what I am trying to tell you, and raised enough hell about it, the legislature might well be forced, via public outrage and outcry, to update Greenbelt laws (and rates). And in this one example, a mere $100 an acre minimum property tax would yield $22,600 versus the meager $36. Now consider the hundred of thousands of acres not being used for any crop production efforts and unmonitored by the single Utah State Tax Commission auditor. Then consider how the average residential single family home owner could receive major tax relief from the constant esculating School District taxes (which comprise between 55 to 80% of our property taxes and 100% of our onerous income taxes).

If you don't like $100 an acre, make it $50, or something reasonable to all concerned. But STOP this MAJOR drain on County Coffers and at our residential expense and subsidy.

This grotesque unfair and outdated Greenbelt law, makes the 500 delinquent property taxes look like mere pennies versus hundreds of millions of dollars.

The 1963"ish" version of FAA or "Greenbelt" was based upon an originally honorable and well intended farm bill, which has been perverted and bastardized by the legislature into the absurd law it remains today. Our fine "legislators" actually made it legal recently for "pleasure horses" to qualify property for Greenbelt exemptions. Like we EAT Horse meat in this Country.

If things continue without civic involvement and some public activism...we may well be dining on horsemeat very soon!

Valley property owner said...

Any journey must begin with a first step. It will not be productive to say if we don't fix every problem right away, we shouldn't waste our time on any problem. If we can get the delinquent tax owned to the County and State paid on time, it will provide the cash flow to forestall future increases in the sales or property taxes. If we continue to allow these delinquent accounts, we are just running in place. Check out the County tax rolls online and start adding up the money that is delinquent, it is substantial.

We should insist as citizens, that all penalties on delinquent taxes exceed the money large property owners can receive by investing anywhere else. A 10-20% penalty would do the trick.

I think it is worthwhile to do these steps to get the County finances up to snuff.



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Machman said...

Valley Property owner,

I (also a Valley property owner, by the way) totally agree, however; as some have pointed out there are already ordinances and statutes in place which at least address the delinqency problems.

And, all factors considered, such tax debts are actually taken care of via leins against property owners, which must be paid at some point, plus penalty fees and interest. So we are, in essence, only loaning the property tax debts to the tax scofflaws who can not, or do not, pay property taxes on time.

Now, please consider a law which has not been adjusted nor updated virtually since its inception forty-five (45) YEARS ago. And consider "what if", for example we residence only (metro Ogden or the Valley or Statewide) property tax payers were still paying at the same tax rate and assessed value (taxable values) that existed forty-five (45) YEARS AGO! Therein lies the problems allowed to continue without legislative action nor updating. Legislators seem timid or outright afraid (as some have admitted privately) to "buck" the most powerful and wealthy lobby in Utah (the Utah Realtor Association and hence the Developers).

The tax scofflaws will argue that market values have indeed been updated yearly for the most part. And recently, their claims are partially true, but only superficial. Yet the simple Truth is...the actual taxes being paid on these investment and family held, non productive "Greenbelt" claimed properties, are miniscule. I mean come on now!... $36 on land valued at more than $5,000,000?! While grandma Ada is starving in a cold dark place, while trying to come up with the equivalent of more than $1,600 for a three quarter acre lot valued at $250,000!! This is plainly insane, unfair, illogical, and unacceptable...at least the way I see it.

Again, I agree that property tax debtors should be penalized more and forced to payup or sellout, before shifting their property tax burdens upon those of us who routinely pay our debts. This debate or discussion is not (or should not) be an "either or" debate/discussion. I am only trying to get folks to "walk and chew gum at the same time". To insist upon BOTH corrective measures in a substantial and meaningful Tax Bill.

Versus a watered down, previously shot down, poorly thought through and researched/documented grandstand Bill of Froerer's, for purely political reasons. If you or I were in the legislature we would have to consider facts before passing such a Bill, such as: (1) "What is the fiscal bill for this proposed Bill? Meaning, what will this "Keith Smith" one acre limit, contrasted to County required 3 acre minimum, end up costing Statewide tax payers? (2) What is the Statewide "tax burden shift" to my (your) constituents? (3) Exactly how many situations exist in Utah where this is true? How much will this Bill (of Froerer's) end up costing the folks I represent? (4) How many Counties and/or how many special tax districts have this situation? etc.

And none of these facts have been provided by Froerer, hence no action on this bogus bill... In point of fact, it has not even it been allowed out of Committee, for General Session consideration, for the past three (3) years (2006,2007 and likely now 2008)! Sure, it "looks good in the showers" to us good honest and unfairly treated Ogden Valley, Weber Co. property owners. But the solution seems to lie appropriately at the feet of those uniquely involved...e.g. the Weber County Commissioners, who made and approved the County Ordinance in the first place. Not at a State legislative level, where Weber County stands clearly alone and unique. Froerer, Hansen, and all Weber Co. reps. should be meeting and planning measures to "force" if necessary, the miscreant Weber Co. Commissioners to correct this grossly unfair situation. That is, if there were any "leadership" in any of these legislators and or Commissioners.

What do you think Weber County and Ogden Valley? Is the "system" OK by you? Are you OK paying for property with only one-third of it eligible for residential 40% exemption, even though Weber Co. requires a minimum of 3 acres? Are you "Just fine" with knowing large tract land owners are subtly dodging extremely significant property taxes and passing their public debt along to you personally, by paying between 8 to 16 PENNIES an acre while you and I pay thousands in property taxes per acre? Are you content while our "representatives" sit back and pretend to be actively involved, while they continue to allow onerous taxation beneficial to them and their cronies? Are you content with "pleasure horses" as an excuse to claim "Greenbelt" exemptions? Do you enjoy horse meat yet?

We are being fed "horse sh__" already by folks seemingly either incapable, incompetent or just plain corrupt. If they are corrupt, they will be eventually replaced by the voters. But if they are incapable or incompetent, it could be simply that they are "needy folks" who need all of our inputs in order to help them do the right thing for all constituents.

So what do you suggest? Shoot the messenger or discredit folks like me who point out what is wrong and suggest possibly better solutions? Or do you prefer to refuse to think about it, apathetic and hope others will somehow make the problems go away?

What do you say?

Petunia said...

This problem is easily solved if the County ups the penalty on delinquent taxes to be higher than they can make with their money in other investments. This is not a new tax, it is already owed and delinquent. If every taxpayer did not pay on time, the county could not operate. What I find reprehensible is they will dip into the rainy day fund and even talk about increases in the mill rate (thus our taxes) before they will go out and collect what is already owed!

Amazed at the incompetence said...

Petunia ent al:

I have just received proof positive that the Weber County Treasurer does not know whether a property tax is delinquent or not.

Our own Property Tax assessment was $3,320.33. We appealed and received two adjustments totalling $486.36 which made our Nov. 2008 Property Tax bill $2,833.97. Our Credit Union mortgage holder routinely and promptly paid $2,833.97 in full in Nov. of this (2008) year.

All's well, right. Not so fast. Nila B. Dayton, our illustrious Weber County Treasurer, sent us a 2008 Delinquent Taxes Are Due letter just today. It claims they were only paid $2,617.44, and we owe another $226.53 after an additional $10 penalty was added.

Seems the book keeping in Weber County is FUBAR and therefore the claims of massive delinquent back taxes being owed is highly suspect.

One thing is certain. We have never been delinquent in any tax or payment of any kind in more than fifty years.

Where ARE these public servants schooled and trained?!??? Amazing, simply amazing!

Read It And Weep said...

The last comment is a clear indication of how poorly the records on property taxes are maintained. When are the 3 top executive officers going to wake up and clean up this tax collection problem? It appears that the taxpayers of Weber County are going to continue to carry the load for the tax scofflaws and incompetence of County employees.