CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Since the delinquent tax lists for Kanawha County real estate were published, property owners have been flocking to the courthouse to pay their debts.
The Kanawha County Sheriff's Department tax office sees a marked increase in the number of people who settle with the county once their names have appeared in local newspapers, Chief Tax Deputy Allen Bleigh said.
This round of delinquent tax list publications began on Sept. 25. It was published again on Oct. 2 and appeared for the third and final time on Tuesday.
"We've been busy since Sept. 25," Bleigh said.
About 15,000 residents who had failed to pay their real estate taxes were identified. The roll is down from about 25,000 who were named in a list released last May.
As of July 1, 2011, $104.4 million in real estate taxes was owed to the county, Bleigh said. Most of that money was collected before the names were published in the paper.
But now about $4.7 million in taxes remains outstanding for the 2011 tax year. That's about 10 percent of what is due as of the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.
"And then we collect a good bit of that when the delinquent tax lists get published," he said.
Typically, most of the people whose names are listed pay up soon after they appear in the papers. Bleigh knew of no single reason for people to wait until that happens to settle up.
"I think some people really don't know they owe taxes. But I think a lot of people just wait until the last minute. And some people can't pay their taxes."
The ones who can't pay often ask Bleigh if a payment plan is available. It isn't.
He tries to make sure everyone knows they owe taxes before the names are published. He sends notifications to property owners who are delinquent.
"And I'll be sending out certified notifications to people that are delinquent at the end of the week," he said.
Bleigh also sends notifications to new property owners to inform them of their tax obligations.
"We're just trying to give as much notice as we can," he said.
In the case of unpaid taxes, liens on the properties will be auctioned to the highest bidders at the Kanawha County Courthouse on Nov. 13. The property itself is not sold at the auction.