Tag Archives: property

Officials seek speedier process in selling property for not paying taxes

State legislators are being urged to speed up the legal process used by local governments to take over and sell property when taxes are not being paid, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The push is led by Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir, county Mayor Mark Luttrell and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.

The proposal would reduce the redemption period to 30 days for delinquent properties determined to be abandoned. For unoccupied properties, owners who haven’t paid taxes for five to seven years would have 180 days instead of a year to redeem their properties, and those behind on taxes more than seven years would have just 90 days to pay up.

It takes more than three years from the time an owner stops paying taxes before a property becomes eligible for a tax sale. Then, when the county trustee’s office includes the property in a sale, like the one coming up Friday, the delinquent owner still has another year to pay the taxes and redeem it.

Lenoir says about 35,000, or 8 to 10 percent of the total 340,000 parcels in the county, are delinquent by three or more years.

“We don’t have the staff nor the budget to put all those properties in a tax sale,” Lenoir said.

The trustee is quick to point out he’s talking parcels, not dollars: He says 94 to 95 percent of the total property taxes due each year are paid.

The county conducts four tax sales a year.

“In each one, we start with 2,000 properties, and we may have 500 in the actual sale,” Lenoir said.

Properties drop out of the sale as owners pay their tax bills, for instance, or file for bankruptcy.

Payday loan firm avoids taxes after buying building from state

A prominent business owner and political fundraiser has not paid property taxes on his corporate headquarters in at least eight years, reports WTVF-TV.
Garry McNabb is the CEO and owner of Cash Express LLC, which has locations across the South. He has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to democratic and republican candidates. The corporate office of Cash Express LLC. is in Cookeville.
But Putnam County property records have listed the office building as being owned by the state of Tennessee — which is exempt from all property taxes.
No one has paid property taxes on the building since McNabb and three others bought it in 2004.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked McNabb “Why haven’t you paid property taxes on that property?”
McNabb responded, “Because the state has never sent me a bill.”
The property deed shows McNabb and others bought the building, which used to be an unemployment office, from the state of Tennessee.
But neither McNabb nor his partners registered the deed, so the building kept appearing on the tax rolls as state property.

Police Chief Resigns After Bulldozer Questions Raised

News release from state comptroller’s office:
Allegedly, it was supposed to be used to clear a field for a police firing range. But documents and other evidence reviewed by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations suggest that a bulldozer owned by the town of Monterey ended up on the former police chief’s property wasn’t going to be used for that purpose.
The investigators’ findings were part of a report that was publicly released today.
Monterey town officials obtained the bulldozer in early June of last year through the state’s military surplus program. In an agreement with the military surplus office, the police chief said that the bulldozer would only be used for law enforcement purposes and would not be leased to others, sold or otherwise disposed of by the town.
According to interviews with officials who were working for the town at the time, when the town received the bulldozer from military surplus, it was transported directly to the police chief’s property so a blade could be attached. The bulldozer was later moved back to town property after questions arose in a public meeting regarding its location.

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School Chief Sees Vouchers, Charter Schools Lowering Property Values

If state legislators agree to expand the charter school and voucher systems in Tennessee, property owners in Williamson County will likely see a decline in the value of their home, according to the director of the county school system via The Tennessean.
At a Thursday evening event hosted by the Williamson County Democratic Party, Mike Looney, superintendent of Williamson County Schools, emphasized the relationship between home values and a thriving public school system.
If taxpayer dollars are diverted from the district in support of charter schools, suggested Looney, a suffering school district will be suffered by homeowners.
“Your home values and my home value will decline,” Looney said. “In Williamson County, your home values are directly correlated to the value of public schools. People move to Williamson County because of the quality of public schools, and that is fragile.”

Bill Requiring More Disclosure From Public Officials Gets Cool Reception

Saying more openness is needed on the part of Tennessee policy makers, Rep. Susan Lynn has introduced legislation that would require the disclosure of all real property they own other than their primary home, according to TNReport.
The Mt. Juliet Republican’s HB 1063 would require all elected and certain appointed public officials, such as those on local and regional planning commissions or state boards, to disclose any real property owned by them, their spouses or any minor children living at home.
“Back in 2006, when we did the ethics reform, we wanted this to be part of the disclosure and simply couldn’t get it done at that time,” said Lynn, who served in the House for eight years before running for state Sen. Mae Beavers’ seat and losing in 2010.
“Leaving the legislature for two years, like I did, you start thinking about the things you wish you’d done or could have done, and this was one of those things.”
…Lynn’s bill would require the disclosure of the address of the property and the month and year of its acquisition, but not everyone in the General Assembly is in favor of it.
Many have told her that the information is a matter of public record, and that should be sufficient. Her argument is that since it is public record, “What’s wrong with putting it all in one neat, consolidated place to make that disclosure?
“I’m not feeling a warm breeze right now from the [Local Government] committee,” said Lynn, who postponed a vote on the bill until March 12. “I really feel like I’m standing out there alone. I know it’s the right thing to do, and I hope they will be amenable.”
She said she would entertain an amendment excepting state legislators from the new disclosure requirement, if it’s the only way to make it a requirement for local government officials.

Corporations Can Vote — Or at Least Authorize People to Vote For Them?

Jim Balloch reports on new curiosities coming to light in a Pigeon Forge liquor-by-the-drink referendum that was decided by 100 votes with, reportedly,, 303 more people voting than were registered to cast ballots in city elections. It’s already inspired a lawsuit and now it appears the FBI is interested.
But the real curiosity is the apparent move by some companies to make people eligible – as property owners – by giving them an interest, temporarily, in property within the city limits. An excerpt
Pigeon Forge City Hall is a split precinct. Besides city voters, many county residents who live outside the city vote there in countywide, state and national elections.
In sworn depositions, poll workers say they were instructed to allow nonresidents to vote in the referendum, that many who did not live in the city were given liquor by the drink ballots, and that there was a lot of confusion that day because different ballots were required for combinations of races.
“I’m sure that contributed to the problem,” Francis said. “I cannot disagree with (poll workers’ statements) that it was a chaotic and confusing day.”
Sevier County property records show some spurious land transactions that were the basis of votes cast by more than a dozen nonresidents who voted as property owners. The votes were perfectly legal, according to state election officials, even though the property ownership claimed by those voters was a 1 percent interest in extremely valuable commercial properties.
Those interests were given — for free — shortly before the election, by four Knoxville-based corporations with numerous links to developers and restaurant businesses in Pigeon Forge.
There are also questions about the validity of what are listed on voter rosters as residential addresses for some Pigeon Forge voters. These include mail drops, a vacant lot, and a building that houses a tattoo parlor and check cashing business.
The News Sentinel was unable to locate some of those individuals for whom those addresses were listed. Some others were found residing in Pigeon Forge residences, and said they used other locations as a mailing address that should not have been listed as their residences.
The News Sentinel has learned that two FBI agents from the Knoxville office recently met with about six members of Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge, a group that opposed liquor by the drink and has filed a lawsuit challenging the election.
The FBI does not confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing investigation, or even say if it has made a preliminary inquiry about a possible investigation
…”I was told that whoever came to my table, if their name was on my roster, they got to vote on the referendum,” even if they did not have a Pigeon Forge address or property, poll worker Mary Louise Beck said in a sworn deposition. She was one of four Election Commission employees subpoenaed to give depositions in CCCPF’s lawsuit challenging the election.
More depositions are being taken this week. Trial is set for Jan. 10-11.

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Democrats Ask Investigation of State Property Deal

News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Democrats are calling for state auditors to investigate a $10 million purchase of a property that county officials valued at $4.4 million.
In a letter to the Comptroller of the Treasury’s Division of Investigations, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said the business deal may have defrauded state taxpayers of more than $5 million dollars.
“Tennesseans deserve absolute disclosure on this suspicious land deal and a full explanation for why we paid $10 million for a property the county assessor valued at $4.4 million,” Forrester stated in the letter. “If citizens are to have faith in their government, there must be complete transparency on high-dollar transactions and accountability if abuse or fraud is found.”
According to The Tennessean, state taxpayers purchased a distressed and unusable Knoxville office building on March 9, 2012 for $10 million to expand Pellissippi State Community College. The building required more than $16 million worth of repairs and, according to the article, the county property assessor valued the building at $4.4 million at the time of the sale.
The chief financial benefactor was a Knoxville developer who has business dealings with Governor Bill Haslam and is a personal friend of the governor’s father, the article said.
“To any casual observer, it appears taxpayers overpaid — by more than $5 million — for a distressed office building and that the financial benefactor was a businessman with deep political connections to Governor Haslam, whose administration advocated for the purchase,” Forrester stated in his letter.

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Talk of Repealing TN Solar Tax Break Scaring Away New Companies?

Lifted from a Tennessean story on solar energy tax credits and their impact in Tennessee, which has been rated as having “the third-fastest-growing clean energy economy” in the nation:
Tennessee now gives a massive property-tax break to solar-power facilities by allowing them to be assessed at their salvage value — defined as no more than one-half of 1 percent of their initial investment costs. But companion bills filed by several Republican legislators in the General Assembly earlier this year would eliminate that break so that solar installations would be assessed and taxed based on their real value, just like other business and residential property.
“That has already pretty much shut down any new solar companies coming to Tennessee,” said Ben Macias, vice president of Shoals Technologies Group in Portland, a manufacturer of components for solar systems that has about 500 workers.
“A lot of solar-power manufacturers are coming to the Southeast, but they are on hold as far as relocating in Tennessee is concerned because of the tax question in the legislature,” he said.
For a 50-kilowatt solar system installed at a business, for instance, the change could raise the property tax $1,500 a year, said Billy Gibson, vice president for engineering and development at Integrated Solar, another Nashville company that installs home and business systems.

Golf Course Lose ‘Greenbelt’ Tax Break

Two Knox County golf courses have lost their property tax breaks, reports the News-Sentinel.
Cherokee Country Club owes $324,385 in back taxes, according to the Knox County Property Assessor’s Office, a fee applied after it recently lost a tax benefit reserved for Tennessee’s open spaces.Holston Hills Country Club will owe $53,301.
The clubs have enjoyed tax subsidies since 1983 through classification as open spaces by the property assessor, under the state’s Greenbelt Law for agriculture, open space and forestry.
After a News Sentinel inquiry to the Tennessee comptroller of the Treasury on whether the golf courses should be considered open space, general counsel Robert T. Lee wrote in an opinion Sept. 26 that “golf courses cannot qualify for open space.”
In 2011, Cherokee received a $28,921 tax break and Holston Hills took a $3,496 tax break from Knox County. The intent of the Greenbelt Law when it was implemented was to protect farmers from being taxed off their land and encourage more open space and forested areas.
Knox County Property Assessor Phil Ballard said his office will comply with Lee’s opinion, and added that a five-year rollback would be applied right away. He said that attorneys representing both courses have contacted his office.
They could have waited to the reappraisal in 2013 to pull the golf course properties out of greenbelt but, “we went ahead and done it,” Ballard said.
Mark Moon, chief operating officer at Cherokee, said the board of directors would meet this week and he expects to discuss losing greenbelt status and the rollback.
“This kind of came out of left field for us,” Moon said.

‘Greenbelt’ Law Benefiting TN Millionaires, including Bredesen, Frist, Hyde

The News Sentinel and the Commercial Appeal, in a joint review of “Greenbelt Law” records, report some of the state’s wealthiest individuals are getting big tax breaks under a program designed to help farmers preserve their land for agriculture.
The 1976 Agricultural, Forest and Open Space Land Act, or “Greenbelt Law,” is subsidizing estates and hobby farms of business icons such as AutoZone founder J.R. “Pitt” Hyde, a Memphis multimillionaire, and some of the biggest names in country music, Wynonna Judd among them. Former University of Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer qualifies by baling hay on his $2.8 million, 47-acre Maryville estate.
Generous farm and forest tax breaks are in force for estate after estate along Nashville’s tony Chickering Road, though official paperwork at the Davidson County Assessor’s Office at times provides little evidence of how the properties qualify. Among the recipients: former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a wealthy health care entrepreneur; and billionaire Thomas Frist Jr., co-founder of Hospital Corp. of America.
Even Knoxville’s private Cherokee and Holston Hills country clubs have been sheltered under the “open space” provision of the law.
In some instances, the law is actually subsidizing the land speculation it was created to combat.
In 2009, for example, Shelby County’s Johnson cut 97 percent from the value of an East Memphis field for sale for commercial development and surrounded by a 127-room Hyatt Place Hotel, ServiceMaster offices and a strip shopping center. Annual taxes on the $2.99 million, 65-acre site owned by Forest Hill Associates loomed at more than $48,000 if taxed at fair market value, yet fell to less than $1,000. Now, an apartment complex is under construction there.
“We’ve done what’s right within the law,” said co-owner Charles Wurtzburger.
Maybe so, with many saving big on this huge break many others are carrying the tax load.