The McCracken County Fiscal Court voted Monday evening to pursue the collection of five years of back taxes from recently discovered omitted properties around the county.
"We're talking about property that has never been on the tax rolls at all. The law requires that we go back and capture that," Judge-Executive Craig Clymer said. "I personally think we have no choice but to do that."
A memo written by Clymer on Sept. 6 outlined his thoughts on the essentialness of the action, attributing his reasoning to "fundamental fairness" and legality.
"Everyone else pays their fair-share of tax. They support their community, according to their means," he wrote. "The property owner is required to list the property, it is not the duty of the PVA (Property Valuation Administrator) to track them down."
Commissioner Eddie Jones said the county is not the only taxing body missing out on money because of these omitted properties and the only path forward is to pursue the money that's owed.
"I don't think we're empowered to forgive a constitutionally imposed tax and I think it'd be against the law for us to try and forgive it," he said.
"I think we need to apologize to all the taxpayers in McCracken County for what's happened," Commissioner Bill Bartleman said, citing a lack of oversight in the PVA office. "We had no way of knowing that these tax assessments were in such poor shape.
"I wish there were some way we could make the previous PVA accountable, but she's probably not available because she's in jail."
Since Bill Dunn took the post of PVA in October 2018 -- after the September resignation and indictment of Nancy Bock, who held the office for nearly three decades, on charges of theft by unlawful taking and forgery -- he and his team have found 23 properties around the county that never made it onto their list.
"Every time I find one of these I hope it'll be the last one, but within one or two days, or a week or two later, we find another one," Dunn told the court. "These properties are all over the county. They're not in one specific district. I suspect we're going to keep finding them, but I have no idea."
The PVA office's efforts of hunting down omitted properties have seen them look at "very little" of the county, Dunn explained, having so far looked at around 2,900 out of over 34,000 McCracken properties. This is simply due to lack of manpower, Dunn said.
The term "omitted properties," Clymer explained in his memo, also applies to additions that increase the value of the property to a "significant" degree, specifically 50 percent or more.
Dunn believes this wider definition will not affect a substantial portion of the population.
Any owner who reports his or her own omitted property will face a lessened penalty (10 percent, with the 12 percent interest levied per year), while those who are found by the PVA office will face a 20 percent penalty, along with the interest.
Those whose property is considered under assessed -- evaluated at a lower than market value rate by the PVA -- will not be held at fault or be subject to back taxes or penalties, Bartleman said.
"We're looking at ways that we can do this while lessening the hardships," Clymer added. "We don't want force people into foreclosure or losing their homes."
Clymer wants to protect all those who are penalized from predatory companies who could purchase liens placed on their properties. He hopes to do this by putting extended deadlines and financing structures in place.
In other fiscal court happenings:
• Real estate and tangible property rates for the tax districts of the county were approved. The county took the maximum 4 percent total increase in revenue, raising to 10.1 cents per $100 of real estate and 14.21 cents per $100 tangible property. A full listing of all districts will be available on the Sun's website.
• The court plans to more clearly define its process for funding outside agencies, including local youth sports organizations, arts agencies and several others, by asking for financial statements to better ascertain their needs.
• The court voted to reinstate the inventory tax portion of its general tax for the first time since 1998. The rate will be set at 14.1 cents per $100.
The next meeting of the McCracken County Fiscal Court will take place on Sept. 23.