Clay to join online tax sale list

GovEase started its contract with the state two years ago with two counties conducting online sales. Last year, 19 counties used the system and this year, as many as 50 of the state's 82 counties likely will, company President Ryan Matthews told supervisors Thursday.
By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

Assured its local "mom and pop" buyers will be taken care of, Clay County supervisors likely will join this year the growing number of counties doing delinquent property tax sales online.

The Board of Supervisors Thursday authorized Tax Assessor Paige Lamkin and board attorney Angela Turner-Ford to review a contract with GovEase, the company that does the sales, and bring it to the board April 2 for approval.

GovEase started its contract with the state two years ago with two counties conducting online sales. Last year, 19 counties used the system and this year, as many as 50 of the state's 82 counties likely will, company President Ryan Matthews told supervisors Thursday.

Counties that used the system last year saw revenues exceed owed taxes by almost $1 million and that number likely will be even higher this year as the system catches on, attracting more bidders from other locations.

That competition drives up overbids.

Lowndes County used the system last year and took in $170,000 more in taxes than was owed with several Florida bidders, as well as bidders from other states, taking part.

"I don't want to cut anyone out. A lot of us are not online literate. Will our folks here who've been doing this a while be taken care of," Supervisor Luke Lummus asked, repeating a concern frequently raised about the system.

Matthews assured supervisors training sessions will be offered in the community prior to the August tax sale and that on the day of the sale, technicians will be in the courthouse with computers helping local residents bid if they want to.

Other counties who have used the system have reported few, if any problems.

"It attracts more bidders and they actually have more information than ever before. Pictures, the tax history, much more than the old way of just coming to the courthouse," Matthews said.

Lamkin said she's heard from some local residents following a Daily Times Leader story about the county considering the move and that she plans more meetings with them about the system and how it works.

The continued growth of technology marked several conversations during Thursday's meeting. Chancery Court Clerk Amy Berry, Lamkin's office, and E-911 Director Treva Hodge all mentioned continuing efforts to get even more county data, tax and deed records, address comparisons, and other information on the county's Web site for the convenience of local residents and those from other places.

"It's so much easier now for title searches for someone who is somewhere else," Berry said.

"It's amazing at how times have changed. People can sit at home now and do just about everything," Lummus said.

HOLIDAY IMPACTS HOMESTEAD DEADLINE

Clay county residents who need to file or update their homestead tax exemption on their residential property should be aware the Clay County Courthouse will be closed March 30 for Good Friday.

The Homestead Exemption deadline is April 1 -- Easter Sunday -- so exemptions must be filed next week.

"We just want to make everyone aware of the deadline and the courthouse being closed. We don't want people coming up here at the last minute Friday and the office be closed," Clay County Tax Assessor Paige Lamkin said.

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