The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Unpaid property taxes come under scrutiny

 

The sheriff's department and the county treasurer's office are working together to collect thousands of dollars in unpaid property taxes from 2012 and 2013.

The county treasurer's office turned over around $25,600 in unpaid taxes last year to the Sheriff, in the form of 74 warrants. The Cheyenne County sheriff's office collected on 67 of the warrants. This left eight of the warrants uncollected as of August 1. The cost of these unpaid taxes including interest and fees was around $7,000.

On the first of November, County Treasurer Diane Scott turns over all personal property taxes that haven't been paid to the county sheriff for collection. He has until October 1 to assemble the funds and then has to turn them back over to the treasurer.

One particular plot of land has long been a cause for concern.

Property leased by WL Enterprises LLC is listed with unpaid taxes going back many years. This property houses a grain elevator in Potter, and has a lease from the railroad until 2021. The county commissioners previously thought there was no such paper for this property, so they did not believe there was anything they could do about unpaid bill.

"The sheriff doesn't know what direction you guys want him to take because you were told there was no longer a lease on it," Scott said.

The county assessor is required to continue judging the property for taxes as long as there are structures on it, Scott added.

"Those buildings are a liability rather than an asset," said county commissioner Ken McMillen. "Under no condition does the county want to take responsibility for those buildings."

The commissioners were unsure what to do about this issue.

"It will continue to be taxed, and every year, this will be on here," Scott said. "I'm going to try to call the railroad and see what they're going to do about it. I think they need to do something about it too, if they're not paying the county their taxes."

All the commissioners agreed that they did not want the county to take on responsibility for the property, even if the taxes weren't being paid. It would be more trouble than it's worth, McMillen said.

"Personally, I think it's an act of futility," McMillen said.

McMillen wondered if there was a way the commissioners could just ignore the unpaid taxes.

"We can strike any taxes that have been on a distress warrant for two years, but have to continue going through this process," Scott said. "So we could probably strike the 2008 and 2009 taxes but we can't do anything else. That would be the only taxes that are eligible to be stricken."

McMillen thought that there was no point in striking the taxes. He suggested that the commissioners just let them build up until the lease runs out. Striking the taxes would just cause paperwork without any actual results, he said.

"Well and they're stricken and never forgiven, so if someone decides to pay them, those would be ones that they'll still have to pay," Scott said.

Amazon Exploration has made a partial payment on its delinquent taxes and have been contacted regarding collection of the remainder. It reportedly plans to keep making these payments.

"Is there a way that we can tie up that production?" McMillen asked.

Amazon has paid neither its 2012 nor its 2013 taxes in full.

Taxes for 2013 must be paid by September.

"I would think probably so," Scott said. "I think they could stop the production until the taxes are current."

She suggested dealing with the 2012 and 2013 taxes in November if they hadn't been paid by that time and consulting with the sheriff and county attorney before taking any action to stop production.

She complimented the county sheriff on his work to collect these taxes.

"I don't know if you remember what our distress warrants used to look like, but this is a huge improvement," Scott said.

 

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