Delaware County experienced a record year in delinquent tax collections in 2021, Delaware County Treasurer Donald Rankey Jr. announced recently. As of Dec. 1, 2021, the treasurer’s office had collected more than $21.5 million in delinquent taxes.
According to the treasurer’s office, $10.1 million in delinquent taxes were collected throughout the entirety of 2020, and this year’s jump represents an 89% increase in collections. The $21.5 million collected goes into the county’s general fund.
Rankey, who was elected in November 2020, made the collection of delinquent taxes a priority as he settled into the position. As of March 1, more than 1,390 land parcels in the county were delinquent on taxes in excess of $12.4 million, with some of the delinquencies dating back to as far as 2007.
“Between November 2020 and March 1, 2021, I had spent a lot of time taking a look at the treasurer’s office, its strengths and weaknesses,” Rankey told The Gazette. “One of the things that I noticed was that we had this extremely high amount of delinquent taxes. At the time, in January and February, the number was as high as $25 million. When I took office on March 1, it was down to about $13.9 million, but it was about 1,100 parcels.”
The first matter of business in beginning to address the delinquent tax issues facing the county was to build up a team capable of taking on the task. Rankey said the treasurer’s office was so poorly staffed when he took office that its staff of five people was simply overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the constant growth throughout the county.
“It was a simple matter of the Delaware County commissioners for the last 20 years wouldn’t give the treasurer’s office any increase in personnel,” he said.
With more funds approved for the treasurer’s budget this year, Rankey was able to create the Revenue Recovery Division led by local collections attorney Jeff Jordan. Disappointed in the commissioners for their lack of action in giving the treasurer’s office more money to be able to pursue the outstanding taxes, Rankey found in the Ohio Revised Code that he was able to pull money out of the delinquent tax fund, which gets 2.5% of every delinquent tax dollar, to make the hires necessary to begin addressing the issue.
With approximately $1.6 million built up in the fund, Rankey was able to pull from the fund to hire Jordan to direct the new division, as well as Rick Karr as the chief investment officer.
“The first thing we did was set out a plan to go after people who owed us $5,000 or more and had been delinquent longer than a year. We had several that were $500,000 or more,” Rankey said of the Revenue Recovery Division.
With Jordan leading the new division, the treasurer’s office was able to reduce the $13.9 million in delinquent taxes owed when Rankey took over to approximately $5 million as of July 10. Of course, that total number went back up in the next collection period, particularly because of the continued fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, but Rankey said much of the delinquent taxes were of the residential variety.
Currently, Karr said there are 1,412 parcels in Delaware County with outstanding taxes for a total of $6,010,473. Rankey said the total number of parcels bothers him, but he feels they’re doing a “pretty good job” as a start. Karr also pointed out that in the total number of parcels are some “crazy situations” that inflate the number such as very small parcels of land with as little as $60 in delinquent taxes owed.
“The goal is to keep our delinquencies to about $5 million,” Rankey said. “Honestly, I’d like to get it down to about $3 million, but with the coronavirus and it affecting incomes and people not being able to get back to work, I think for the next year or so, we can keep it down around $5 million.”
Rankey went on to say that he believes the county, in large part due to the pursuit of delinquent taxes, might be in the strongest financial position its ever been in.