GATE CITY – Scott County Treasurer Mitzi Owens has responded to criticism about the county’s delinquent tax collection rate.
After a lengthy discussion on the topic during last month’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Owens addressed the issue during this month’s meeting. Owens said the dollar amount of delinquent taxes discussed in the June meeting was incorrect, adding that her department uses every available means to collect taxes.
Owens took issue with information relayed by county resident David Carter during last month’s meeting. Using documents requested through a Freedom of Information Act request, Carter came to the conclusion that the county had more than $2 million of delinquent taxes. Owens refuted that claim.
“While this individual, Mr. David Carter, provided those figures obtained from the Scott County Treasurer’s Office, the determinations he arrived at were incorrect,” Owens said. “Mr. Carter reported a figure of $2,442,507.52 for delinquent taxes, and the correct report totals are actually $1,864,476.50, for a difference of $578,331.02.”
During the June meeting, Carter also said that Scott County’s tax collection is around 91-92%, compared to 98% and 95% in Wise and Lee counties, respectively. Owens said Carter failed to mention that Wise County has a staff of nine full-time employees, while Lee County has four — both more than Scott County.
“Mr. Carter also mentioned he believes last year’s tax increase was largely due to the amount of uncollected taxes,” Owens said. “Folks, let’s set the record straight. In fact, don’t rely on incompetent people; do your research. Scott County’s largest expense is the Southwest Regional Jail, not to mention we were 11% tax-exemption for real estate just two years ago, and now we are at 19%. This shortfall has nothing to do with the treasurer’s office.”
Supervisor Danny Mann said his criticism of the treasurer’s office wasn’t personal or political, but that taxpaying citizens shouldn’t have to bear the burden for those who don’t pay.
“If you’re not paying your taxes, shame on you, because those who are willing to pay, we did raise your taxes (last year) because of those who aren’t willing to pay,” Mann said. “That $1.8 million that’s still out there, not acceptable.”
Supervisor Jeremy Herron said many of the conversations he has with county citizens lead to taxes. He requested a new report from Owens that shows where Carter’s mistake was made when understanding the numbers.
“I think we need to figure out the options that we’re not using, if there are any. … To me, we need something to get this under control,” Herron said. “I think Ms. Owens realizes, ‘Yeah, 1.8 million, that’s not acceptable.’ It’s not fair to the general public. We’ve got to figure out something to try to bring that in.”