DENTON — Caroline County Commissioners put property owners who have not paid their tax bills for 2019 on notice Sept. 29. It’s time to pay up or face a public auction.
Comptroller Cathie Moore with the county tax office appeared before the commissioners seeking to defer the annual tax sale, already postponed due to the coronavirus restrictions, until 2021. She also asked to move the regular sale from the second week in June to the third week in May.
The county’s last tax sale took place in June 2019, and the majority of the outstanding bills are 15 months overdue, Moore told the commissioners.
Sara Visintainer, the commissioners’ chief of staff, said by law the tax sale must take place every two years, so skipping it in 2020 wouldn’t pose a legal problem.
The June 2020 sale was delayed due to a pause in collections ordered by the governor during the COVID-19 state of emergency, County Administrator Jeremy Goldman said, adding that most counties have canceled their tax sales for this year.
Commission President Larry Porter asked how many properties had yet to pay their bills.
Moore said the number was down to 134 properties from more than 600 back in June.
Commissioner Dan Franklin said he was willing to entertain a delay for people who haven’t been able to pay because of COVID-19 but not for bills from before the pandemic.
Moore said all the bills being discussed were from the previous July, prior to the outbreak.
Porter agreed with Franklin, saying he was not willing to give people a break on their 2019 tax bills.
After the auction was moved from the courthouse steps some years ago, it has traditionally been held in the commissioners’ meeting room, Visintainer said. But that space is too small under current social distancing guidelines.
She suggested the Fretterd Community Center or the 4-H Park as alternate sites.
Moore said she could also look into online platforms to host the sale. People would register to bid, then do so online.
Once a platform or location is selected and a date decided on, the sale will be advertised in the local paper, which also gives property owners time to redeem their property by paying their bills prior to the sale.
Both Moore and Visintainer indicated the sale couldn’t take place any sooner than mid to late November.
The commissioners approved moving the date of the next regular tax sale from June to May and agreed to revisit if a delay for the 2020 sale was needed due to the effects of the coronavirus on people’s livelihoods.