By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – Collections for the 2014 tax year are strong for Lee County heading into the home stretch.
“We’ve had a very good year,” Tax Collector Leroy Belk told the Lee County Board of Supervisors Monday. By state law, the tax collector is required to update supervisors on tax collections at the beginning of October.
“Overbids exceeded all overbids from previous years,” Belk told the board, $300,000 above the taxes and penalties owed on real estate in Lee County. Typically, the county sees about $200,000 in overbids. “It’s the highest I’ve seen since I’ve been tax collector.”
Investors bid on the unpaid real estate taxes at an auction, speculating that they will be able to earn up to 36 percent interest over two years, Belk said. The investors are repaid when back taxes are eventually paid on the property. The money bid above the tax and penalties owed to the county at the time of the August auction are put into escrow for two years. At the end of two years, the money goes into the county’s general fund.
Additionally, the office has collected all but $3,600 of the $80,000 in bad checks.
“That’s much better,” Belk told the board. “We’ve had fewer bad checks.”
The collection rate for personal property, which are the furnishing for businesses, is at 98.4 percent. The county currently has about $309,000 outstanding. However, about half is owed by the 112 businesses that closed or went into bankruptcy and will be difficult to collect, said Mike Price, deputy tax collector.
Collection on taxes for mobile homes, which are handled much like vehicles, has reached 82 percent of owed taxes.
“That’s a little bit ahead of last year,” said Jim King, deputy tax collector.
The high collection rates represent a tremendous effort by the staff of the tax collector’s office, Belk told the board.
“I’ve got a really good team,” he said.