Over the years, Jefferson County Tax Collector J.T. Smallwood has seen his staff shrink from 50-plus down to 16.
So when people in Jefferson County do not pay their property taxes on time, it compounds the money crunch for Smallwood and his staff.
When asked how much the bankruptcy has impacted his office's ability to track down delinquent tax payers and collect the property taxes, Smallwood replied, "Well, we've lost our field agents some time ago and we don't have a field presence to go out and collect from businesses any more."
Meanwhile the number of properties they must collect taxes from has remained the same.
Right now there are 316,607 parcels in Jefferson County.
That adds up to $542,537,038 a year for local schools and public safety.
That is if everybody pays their share.
Here is how the system works in Alabama.
All property taxes are due by October 1st.
They are delinquent by January 1st.
The deadline to avoid the tax sale and a property lien is May 20th.
A month ago, we obtained a complete inventory of all property owners who still owed.
More than 9,000 parcels' taxes had gone unpaid.
Over time those numbers have dwindled.
At close of business on May 16th, Smallwood gave us the very latest list of delinquent property tax payers from the tax collector's office.
A total of 5,195 properties still owed the county nearly $6.3 million.
Smallwood said the procrastinating property owners typically blame the economy.
"They are just having a difficult time financially. They'll go on to explain because again layoffs, or illness or medical bills or whatever and they just behind on their bills. And the government is usually the last entity you want to pay," Smallwood pointed out.
So who owes the most?
The Jefferson County Racing Association tops the list.
The Birmingham Race Course owes the county $409,918.
Number two is the Forestdale Mobile Home Park.
Smallwood claims they owe $131,974 in fire dues.
Third on the list is a group called Nilkanth LLC.
They own a Holiday Inn just off Lakeshore Parkway and owe $112,841.
Fourth is Emerald Parc Partners that own an apartment complex on Earline Circle near Huffman High School.
They still have not paid $91,284.
Finally, CMMC Development Company is the listed owner for this Gardendale shopping center which still owes more than $55,323.
Smallwood said if any names on this list have sold the property, they are no longer responsible for the taxes.
"It's really to everyone's best interest because the money again is primarily school money, fire district money, municipal money, which provides fire and police and garbage pickup in many areas. So it is very crucial for everyone's benefit," Smallwood concluded.
If the property owners do not pay by Monday, an investor can buy their back taxes on the courthouse steps on Tuesday.
That means that investor would hold a lien on the property and if the owner ever sold or refinanced, they would have to pay the investor all the back taxes plus interest.
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