City looks for help in collecting unpaid taxes

Governments are running on ever-tight budgets. Keep that in mind when you consider this number: $1.8 million.

Delinquent motor-vehicle taxes in Waynesboro in a four-year period prior to fiscal-year 2011 totaled more than $1.8 million. The roughly $450,000 a year that has gone uncollected is equivalent to about 1 percent of what the city spends on local-government operations in a given year.

City Treasurer Stephanie Beverage has made collecting unpaid taxes a priority since taking office in January.

“People are asking us, Why are you doing it now? The answer is simple. It’s the law,” said Beverage, who has worked out a tentative agreement to engage the Suffolk-based Virginia Auction & Collection Company to assist her office in collecting delinquent taxes.

Under state law, the city can seize the Virginia state tags on vehicles on which taxes are delinquent, seize the vehicles themselves for impoundment until the taxes are paid, or sell seized vehicles at auction in the event that payment arrangements can’t be worked out with the delinquent taxpayer, with proceeds from the auction going against the unpaid tax bill.

The process spelled out in the tentative agreement between Virginia Auction & Collection and the treasurer’s office for collecting on delinquencies of $500 or less would have the company removing the Virginia state tags from the vehicle on which taxes are owed and placing a distress/seizure warrant on the driver’s side door that notifies the taxpayer that they have three days to respond to the city treasurer with a satisfactory plan for paying delinquent taxes.

On delinquencies of more than $500, vehicles will be towed to a VAC storage lot and kept there until the taxpayer has worked out a payment plan with the treasurer.

The tentative agreement between Beverage and the collections company will be up for discussion at the Waynesboro City Council meeting on July 26. Beverage needs a resolution from City Council to finalize the agreement.

City Manager Mike Hamp is recommending that the city move forward with the agreement.

According to the company, there is no cost to the city for the collections. The method employed by Virginia Auction and Collection assesses the recovery costs on the delinquent taxpayer. For delinquencies at $500 or less, residents would be charged a license-plate removal fee of $30 plus an amount equivalent to 20 percent of the overdue tax bill, and on delinquencies above $500, residents would be charged a tow fee starting at $200 for passenger cars and pickup trucks up to one ton plus an amount equivalent to 20 percent of the taxes paid.

Another number to keep in mind in relation to this topic: 1 million. Even with Beverage’s renewed efforts thus far this year, the total delinquent taxes still outstanding is just shy of a million dollars all told.

“The city runs on these taxes. Taxes are what fund what the city does in terms of providing services. This has to be a priority. We need to make sure that people follow through,” Beverage said.
 
 

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.



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