Aug. 26, 2005 With some effort, you could be the successful bidder on one of the 37 St. Thomas properties the Finance Department plans to auction off Sept. 20.
The auction begins at 10 a.m. at the government's Personnel Division office located at 3438 Kronprindsens Gade in Charlotte Amalie.
Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull said Friday that the properties on the list are the worst cases in the department's files for tax delinquency. In two of the 37 listings, the owners owe taxes as far back as 1979. In one of those cases, the owners paid no taxes at all from 1979 to 2003.
"We have served these persons. They know they owe," Turnbull said.
She said the department sent letters by certified mail and by regular mail in case the recipients failed to collect their certified mail. Where banks were involved, Turnbull said the department filed liens.
While Turnbull didn't have a complete list of the amounts owed in front of her, she said one property owner owed $106,000.
"Another one owes $77,000," she said.
The Finance Department started to clean house last year when it published extensive lists of property owners the department thought owed back taxes. Some turned out to be record-keeping errors, but Turnbull said that in many cases, the owners paid up or made substantial down payments on what they owed.
Turnbull said she anticipates that some property owners on the list will pay up or make a substantial down payment before their properties go up for auction. Therefore, the list of 37 could be cut.
She said after the properties on St. Thomas are put up for auction, the department will hold a similar event for St. Croix. Turnbull said that other auctions will follow those two. She said St. John will also have an auction.
Turnbull said the department last held an auction in the late 1980s.
She said in the interim, the Legislature passed several tax amnesties to give property tax payers a chance to pay up.
"One amnesty lasted 15 months. And on the heel of that one, they passed another amnesty law," Turnbull said.
To find out about the properties in question, Turnbull said potential bidders must visit or call the Tax Assessor's office at 776-8505. She said staff will be able to provide details such as acreage and the size of the structure, if any, on the property.
Turnbull said there will be a minimum bid for each property that will include the amount of back taxes and a share of the costs associated with the auction.
She said potential bidders should call the Finance Department's enforcement section at 774-4750 to find out the minimum bid.
The successful bidder must pay 10 percent of the bidding price in cash or cashier's check by the end of the day of the auction.
The bidder then has 10 days to come up with the rest of the money.
However, the owner has a year to pay the back taxes. Therefore, there is no guarantee that you'll be able to occupy the property. Turnbull said that if that turns out to be the case, you'll get 12 percent interest on your money.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.