To the Editor:
People usually don’t associate good news with taxes, but the annual Madison County Tax Sale, held this past Thursday, did result in good news for late taxpayers. Property taxes in the amount of $4.4 million were sold at a weighted average penalty interest rate of 1.59 percent.
I’m not aware of any prior Madison County tax sale that has yielded a lower rate.
In 2006, I blew the whistle on unethical tax sales. When it became clear that county authorities were turning a blind eye, my campaign manager and county board member Steve Adler called the FBI.
After I lost the election, Adler asked me, “How do you feel?” I told him that I was disappointed, but I felt my campaign would lead to cleaner tax sales. I will never forget Adler’s response: “Kurt, you just don’t understand. Now they think they are invincible. The tax sales will get worse. ”
Indeed they did. Tax sales in 2007 and 2008 resulted in average penalty rates of 18 percent, the maximum allowed by law.
The first thing I did after winning the 2010 election was to reform the tax sale process. I refused political donations from tax buyers and used automatic software to run the sale. The first three tax sales that I have run have all yield average rates under 4 percent.
We all know the rest of the story.
A federal investigation sent former Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon to prison. Three buyers have pleaded guilty. That investigation continues.
The tax sales held from 2005 through 2008 cost delinquent taxpayers more than $4 million of excessive penalty interest, and that doesn’t count the homes people lost.
The bottom line is that low penalty interest rates are good for taxpayers.
Kurt Prenzler, CPA
Madison County Treasurer