By MIKE WILLIAMS
Town of Pulaski Finance Director Jackie Morris and her staff have been hard at work – and apparently quite successful – in collecting on delinquent taxes owed the town.
“Jackie and her staff have been doing some amazing things to generate the revenue that is due to the town,” led off Town Manager Darlene Burcham. “We have implemented a number of techniques that had not been used previously,” Burcham continued.
Morris was on hand Tuesday evening to brief town council on her department’s collections activities.
Morris said one thing that sparked her interest in town finances when she first became director of the department was the amount of delinquencies in tax payments.
She explained that after the retirement of the former tax clerk, who managed both real estate and personal property tax collections, the position and duties were re-evaluated and the decision was made to split the position.
Now Raquel Poe heads up the real estate tax work and Karen Brooks handles personal property.
“They’ve put in a lot of effort and time into collections,” Morris said.
After July 1, 2022 Morris said Poe and Brooks went to work attempting to collect delinquent real estate and personal property taxes.
She explained that Poe contacted delinquent accounts about the status of their account, even offering to set up payment arrangements to retire the debts.
According to Morris, there are 30 payment arrangement agreements in place.
She also forwarded 34 accounts to the town’s collection attorneys, Sands Anderson. So far, 11 accounts from the 34 have been paid in full.
She said 16 more properties are still being processed and could be added to the list of properties destined for a tax sale.
Morris said seven properties are ready for the tax sale, which she said is set for Oct. 24.
Morris said collection efforts through the end of the Fiscal Year 2023 had brought in some $140,000 in taxes owed, $83,000 in interest and $28,000 in penalties for a total revenue of $254,231.
She added that so far in Fiscal Year 2024 (July and August) another $23,000 has been brought into the town’s coffers.
Next, Morris reported on liens owed the town for mowing and demolitions.
“The town has had liens for quite some time and I couldn’t see where any collection work had been done on this,” Morris said.
The amount owed for liens was $397,504.88.
Morris told council that beginning in January, Poe and Dana Bishop began working to collect money owed through liens.
She said the process of collection is “slow and tedious.”
She reported that so far, through July 31, $15,000 had been collected so far, and another $1,100 so far this month.
“That looks like a small amount, but we’re making progress,” Morris said.
The effort to collect on delinquent personal property taxes and utility bills began in January and included using Debt Set-off through the state, which targets tax refunds and even lottery winnings over $600.
Morris said the effort to collect on delinquent personal property and working through the Debt Set-off procedures was difficult.
“When I tell you it was overwhelming, that is an understatement. It was a huge undertaking,” Morris said, adding it didn’t help that four of her department’s seven staff members contracted COVID.
“I have an amazing staff. They were ‘all hands on deck,’” she said.
She said so far delinquent personal property taxes collected are over $60,000 with $20,000 in interest and over $28,000 in penalties for a total of $110,604 collected.
Over $16,000 in delinquent utility bills have been collected, and over $30,000 including Debt Set-off fees for both personal property and utilities.
That makes the total collected $159,687.
Morris said the amount collected through Debt Set-off has replaced the revenue lost by eliminating the town’s decals.
“It has paid off. It’s been a lot of hard work and I appreciate my staff greatly for all the hard work, time and effort they have put in,” stated Morris.
“I can’t say enough about what Jackie was saying about her staff,” said Burcham. “They really have made it their goal to maximize the revenues that we are entitled to have. Candidly, every resident should support that, because if they have to pay it, so should the next person have to pay it.”