Mizell signs agency to handle past-due property taxes

Published 8:27 am Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bogalusa Mayor Charles Mizell is getting tough with city property owners who don’t pay their taxes on time. For one thing, he’s making it easier for anyone who might be interested to buy properties with unpaid taxes. For another, he’s making the delinquent taxpayers themselves responsible for funding the collection of those taxes.

Mizell said Bogalusa will start conducting online tax sale auctions of properties with delinquent taxes.

“This is just a first step in bringing in all revenues due the city,” he said. “We will continue to use all means available to ensure our property owners live up to their responsibilities.”

The online auction will take the place of the tax sales traditionally held at City Hall.

Traditional sales require anyone who wants to participate in the process to be on site when the auction is being conducted. Online auctions will enable increased participation because people will be able to bid on properties from their homes or places of business. To ensure that no one is left out, computers will be made available to the public at City Hall.

Information, including a list of properties available for purchase, a plotted map, satellite images of the properties, the amount of delinquent taxes owed and answers to general questions about the tax sale process, plus an instructional video, will be available online.

Bogalusa municipal employees won’t even have to handle the process, Mizell said.

In accordance with recent state legislation, the city has contracted with Archon, a company that specializes in third-party government tax collections, to help secure payment of delinquent property taxes.

That company will not only conduct the online sale, it’s contracted to locate delinquent taxpayers, mail delinquency notices, generate all tax sale related events, process payments and provide taxpayer customer service through its call center.

That’s a deal that has already proven successful in communities throughout Louisiana, and the services won’t cost the city or property owners who pay their taxes on time, according to Mizell.

Again, in accordance with the law, on Feb. 1 delinquent Bogalusa city taxpayers were assessed a 10 percent collection cost in addition to 1 percent monthly interest.

The collection cost covers the administrative expense of printing and mailing notices and operating a call center where taxpayers can submit payments and obtain account balances, Mizell said.

The mayor believes the new system offers a win/win situation for Bogalusa.

By utilizing this approach for delinquent collections, the city no longer has to expend timely paid tax revenues to collect delinquent taxes, and instead the delinquent taxpayers themselves are essentially paying for delinquent tax collections, he said.

Besides that, Mizell expects that a number of forgotten properties will be sold and revitalized, thus improving the quality of life for everybody in the city.

The first online tax sale for properties with delinquent taxes will be held on May 29. Anyone who would like to participate may register online at www.civicsource.com prior to the sale.