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Tax delinquents’ names may go public in Caroline

Caroline County officials may have found a new way to collect owed personal property taxes from the county’s biggest debtors.

At several meetings during the past few months, the Board of Supervisors have discussed publishing the names of people who have not paid their taxes for 2008 to 2013 in the newspaper and on the county’s website.

At its Tuesday meeting, the board voted to move forward with publishing the names, but will continue to discuss whether it will be all the names, or just a certain amount, such as the top 100 or 500 names.

There are about 4,000 people who owe personal property taxes to the county for the years 2008 to 2013, for a total of $1.6 million. That doesn’t include people who have declared bankruptcies, people who the county know are deceased and people who have set up formal payment plans.

Of the 4,094 names, 1,475 owe less than $100, according to a memo from the county treasurer Beth Curran to the county administrator.

The names won’t be published for at least one month.

The idea was originally suggested by Western Caroline Supervisor Jeff Black.

“I think it sends a message loud and clear,” he said during the board’s discussion about publishing the names. “We need to collect the money.”

Madison Supervisor Wayne Acors said he understands the message, but in his experience working for the state, he has seen them “spend $10 to collect a penny.”

He said it might not be a bad idea to publish the top 100 or 200 names to see what kind of response they get.

Bowling Green Supervisor Jeff Sili said he wanted the top 500 names published.

Black was against a set number. He said it should be all or nothing so that it does not discriminate based on amount.

Other methods used to collect the taxes have been to withhold registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles, offsetting income tax refunds, putting tax liens against wages or bank accounts.

According to the state law, the names of people who owe more than $20 in taxes are subject to having their names published.

Curran said she has been in contact with The Free Lance–Star and The Caroline Progress to determine what the cost might be to publish the names, the years owed and the amounts owed to the county.

She said she would return to the board at a future meeting to determine the next steps.

Curran has already sent “warning letters” to those people who owe money, telling them that if they did not pay, their names would be published.

Those who owe taxes from before this year were notified at least three times with letters: last summer, in January and just recently.

It was in the most recent letter that they were notified their names would be made public.

At the end of the discussion, Black asked if the same thing could be done for the people who owe real estate taxes. Curran said she would look into it.

Reedy Church Supervisor Reggie Underwood was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Robyn Sidersky: 540/374-5413