Property tax deadline looms, thousands haven't paid

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Traffic was steady at the Jackson County Tax Collector's Office Friday afternoon, but there's still plenty of unfinished business to be done there. Owners of more than 8,000 parcels of land in Jackson County still haven't paid their 2008 property taxes.

"The reassessment made taxes go higher, and I just believe the people are strapped for money right now," Tax Collector Joe Tucker said.  "A lot of layoffs, they have a choice, pay the rent, or pay the taxes. And right now it looks like the economy is hurting."

Tucker understands why cash-strapped people might not have paid, but it won't give them a free pass. All property taxes that go unpaid will be auctioned at the county's annual tax sale at the end of this month. Tucker said this year's tax sale will be a big one.

"Right now, we have over 2,000 parcels more than last year, and about $2.5 million worth of land that's going to go to the tax sale over last year's sale," Tucker explained.

The list of unpaid property taxes took up 45 pages in the local paper Thursday. An updated list will be published again next Thursday. Residents with unpaid taxes have until next Friday to get their names off the list and their property off the auction block. All they have to do is pay their 2008 property taxes.

The auction will begin August 28th, in the Jackson County Courthouse lobby. Unpaid taxes will be auctioned to bidders. If a buyer purchases your taxes, he or she will pay them. You will then have 2 years to pay your taxes at high interest.

The county can then pay the bidder back with interest. If after two years you still haven't paid, the buyer gets your property.

"They [the buyers] do not have access to the property for two years," Tucker said. "The property is not forfeited for two years after the date of the sale."

Tucker said he's disheartened by the sheer number of people who could find themselves in that situation.

"I'm disappointed for a lot of the people that may have to get their taxes forfeited," Tucker said. "And then later on they're going to have to pay more. That's sad."

Tucker said the auction usually lasts a week, but he expects this year's sale to last much longer.

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