While many Americans are screaming that they are just plain TEA'd (taxed enough already), a report delivered to the Stephenville City Council Tuesday shows while city taxpayers may be buried in a struggling economy, they still work hard at paying their taxes.
Tax attorney Jeff Brown, with Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, an Austin-based lawfirm in its 23rd year of representing the city, delivered a delinquent tax collection report to the council. The report reflected the firm's work during the Oct. 1, 2009-Sept. 30, 2010 collection period.
Brown delivered the news that efforts to collect locally by Tax Collector Jennifer Carey and the area's "good taxpaying citizenry," added up to few problems for the city.
"You (the city) really don't have a delinquent tax problem," Brown said.
Brown said when efforts to collect on delinquent accounts through warning notice letters fail, the lawfirm backs up the demands for payment with lawsuits.
He said 19 lawsuits were filed against 22 parcels of property during the reporting period, which sought the collection of more than $23,000 in delinquent taxes, penalties and interest.
While the number of lawsuits filed remain in the double digits, Brown said the number was about half the number of lawsuits filed last year.
He also said once a lawsuit is filed, properties frequently pay their bills when they receive a citation, and the cases are dismissed by the firm when the payments are received.
"During this reporting period, we have dismissed, as paid, a total of 15 lawsuits which involved in excess of $10,867.36 in taxes, penalties and interest," the report states.
Courtroom judgments were taken in 10 lawsuits involving almost $13,000, according to the report, which also states that the judgements were awarded to the city in each case.
Brown said when attempts at collecting fail following a court judgement, the properties are sold locally on the courthouse steps. He said during the reporting period, six tax sales were prosecuted on six tracts of property.
Council member Alan Nash asked if the properties sold were empty lots or if they were developed with residences.
Carey said it is very rare for properties with inhabitable structures to be the subject of a tax sale, and also said the city does a good job of abating substandard structures before a sale is ever initiated.
In regards to collections, the firm delivered big bucks during the reporting period. Brown's report said the firm has collected just over $95,027.75 in taxes, penalties and interest during the specified time period, a number that he said was about $8,000 more than the previous collection period.