Overdue property taxes in Richland, Lexington counties continue downward trend

cleblanc@thestate.comDecember 9, 2013 

The trend toward fewer properties being auctioned because of delinquent taxes is likely to continue this year in the Columbia area.

County treasurers’ offices in Richland and Lexington counties report that an improving economy again will result in fewer sales because of overdue property taxes.

Both counties are holding their annual auctions Monday.

Many people paid their back taxes Friday, rescuing their property from the auction block.

But the numbers at risk before any Friday payoffs are good indications of an improving local economy.

In Richland County, 3,049 homes, mobile homes, buildings and pieces of land were facing public auction Thursday, Treasurer David Adams said.

Almost half were removed from the tax sale by Monday. Adams said 1,545 properties went to the auction block Monday for property taxes due from 2011 and 2012. That’s about 400 fewer properties than last year and about 500 fewer than 2011, he said.

The number in Lexington County Thursday was 1,866 parcels, whose owners owe $3.15 million, said Gene Rishkofski, who handles delinquencies for Treasurer Jim Eckstrom.

By percentages, that means 23 percent fewer Richland County properties face auction this week compared with the same time in 2011, according to calculations based on figures supplied by Adams.

In Lexington County, the percentage decrease from 2011 is slightly greater: 24 percent, Rishkofski’s numbers show.

“We’re seeing steady decreases,” Adams said of auctions that in 2011 hit 3,964 properties advertised for sale. Of that high figure, 2,054 actually were auctioned that year for a total of $20.1 million, he said.

Rishkofski he is seeing the same downward trend in Lexington County.

“It’s getting a little better,” he said.

This year, 1,866 Lexington County properties face auction. That’s 445 fewer than the parcels auctioned in 2011 for $10 million, Rishkofski said.

Adams estimated that 1,200 of the 3,000-plus Richland County property owners in arrears would pay their taxes before Monday’s auction, based on late-payment trends over the years. That would mean 87 fewer will be sold than were sold in 2012, when 1,936 properties were auctioned for $27.4 million, he said.

In Lexington, Rishkofski estimated that the final number this year will be lower than 2012’s 1,257 parcels that were auctioned for $14 million.

Adams said overdue taxes generally are recouped by counties because property owners eventually pay their back taxes or someone else buys the property and pays the tax bill.

“The county is going to get that tax money,” he said. “We have a way ... to recoup nearly 100 percent of that.”

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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