By ANDY MCCAMMON
Clay County has not held a tax sale for quite some time, much to the frustration of citizens hoping to purchase tax-sale properties and county officials trying to stay in compliance with state guidelines.
The Clay County Board of Commissioners has met the issue head on in 2006, entertaining a bid from a new tax sale administration firm with the intent of reviving the tax sale in Clay County. The board invited a representative from GUTS (Government Utilities Technology Service) to speak at its most recent meeting, and Commissioner Daryl Andrews said he expects the board to decide the issue at its February session.
Indiana law mandates an annual public sale of tax-delinquent properties in every county in the state. Clay County last held a tax sale in late 2002, according to Commissioner David Parr. Last year's tax sale was canceled when SRI, the county's former tax sale contractor, failed to include necessary fields of information when submitting a list of for-sale properties to The Brazil Times for publication.
Certified mailings to tax-delinquent property owners were also botched by SRI, according to Clay County Treasurer Joe Dierdorf.
Administrator error hasn't been the only stumbling block in re-instituting the sale. Counties in Indiana are required to keep a current list of tax-sale eligible properties. Greg Jordan, GUTS Senior Vice President of Indiana Operations, attributes partial blame to a state-ordered property reassessment in 2005, which he said blurred the lines between eligible and ineligible properties.
"The reassessment caused a lot of counties to feel they couldn't rely on their lists," he said.
According to Commissioner Daryl Andrews, precision is key in the organization of a tax sale and the preparation of the accompanying paperwork. He said even a seemingly insignificant mistake can jeopardize a sale.
"(All the paperwork) has to go to the circuit court judge. If he finds a legal technicality, he won't sign to proceed with the sale, which is why we're looking at GUTS this year," he said.
Jordan added he understood that organizing the tax sale is anything but simple. He said GUTS' tax-sale package would cover all the county's bases.
"It's a fairly complicated process, in terms of notifying property owners, doing the certified mailings, making the list," he said. "Generally speaking, everything we provide is all that the county should need."
According to Commissioner David Parr, clerical slips have caused major problems with other tax sales in the area. Parr said incorrect property ID numbers on a recent Putnam County tax sale list resulted in the sale of ineligible properties.
"We want to make sure that doesn't happen here in Clay County," he said.
If GUTS is accepted by the commissioners as the county's tax sale administrator, Parr said county residents can expect a sale some time in late 2006.