Frustrated with special property tax assessments not being processed by the Barton County Treasurer’s Office, the Great Bend City Council Monday night approved sending a strongly worded letter to Treasurer Kevin Wondra expressing the city’s concern.
At issue is over $200,000 in mowing Fees and demolition assessments that have not been processed, City Clerk Amit Patel said. The County Treasurer’s Office has not processed some of the fees for 2014 and most of the fees for 2015.
Patel said he has been checking into the mowing and administrative charges that are sent to the county for processing along with abatement of the opera house that was razed in 2014. When he found out the extent of the problem, he felt he should bring to the council’s attention.
“Amit and I have been pretty forgiving,” City Administrator Howard Partington said regarding their dealings with the Treasurer’s Office. However, he said it was a good time for the council to make its feelings known.
He suggested a letter sent by Mayor Mike Allison on the council’s behalf. Council members said they wanted it to be as aggressive as possible.
The blame falls on the treasurer, Patel noted. Council members asked if there was any recourse the city could take to force the treasurer’s hand.
However, since it is an elected position, there is not much the council can do. “Probably, the only answer is an election,” Councilman Joel Jackson said.
Special assessments are things that don’t have value, but are being charged to a property’s taxes nonetheless. These include mowing, building demolition and other services done by a governing entity.
Here’s how this works.
Say a property is abated by the city because the lawn was overgrown. The city mows the grass and charges the work to the property owner, submitting via certified mail the cost as a special assessment to the County Clerk’s Office.
Once the County Clerk Office signs off on the assessment, it then goes to the County Treasurer’s Office for processing. This involves generating a new tax statement which is mailed to the property owner who then has 45 days to pay the bill.
If the property owner fails to pay, then the city has a lien against the property. This means the owner can’t sell the property because there isn’t a clear title due to the lien.
When the taxes are paid, the money goes back to the city.
However, if the assessments are not processed and a part of the property’s abstract, there is no lien, City Attorney Bob Suelter said. This means the parcel can be sold and the city would never be able to collect what it is owed.
According to information from the Barton County Clerk’s Office, the total outstanding special assessment balance for the city is $200,259.60, some charges dating back to December 2014. The largest individual total is the $92,270 for the old opera house which the city demolished.
Most of the remaining amounts range from $125 to $300.
Great Bend is not alone, the information from the County Clerk’s Office notes. Hoisington is owed $10,280.62, Ellinwood $870 and Claflin $900.