ALBION — Noble County will aim to collect just over $390,000 in unpaid property taxes at this year’s tax sale.
The total number of properties more than 18 months delinquent has dropped from a year ago, but there’s still more than 100 properties overdue on their tax payments.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a hardship for some property owners, it’s not showing up on this year’s tax sale, at least.
This year, Noble County has 109 properties listed for tax sale on the initial listing, advertised in a public notice by the Noble County Auditor’s Office advertised as of Wednesday.
That list is likely to get pared down significantly as several property owners typically pay off their delinquent amounts and are removed from the sale listing before it happens. This year’s tax sale is scheduled for Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. in the Dekko Room of the Noble County South Office Complex.
That total is down from 129 properties listed last year and the lowest in the past seven years.
The total the county is looking to recoup is also the lowest in the past seven years, although that’s because the county has finally rid itself of frequent fliers with more $100,000 in unpaid taxes.
Through 2017, the tax sale rolls were ballooned by the former McCray Refrigerator factory, which at its height in 2017 had racked up more than $475,000 in unpaid taxes. The city took title to the property with plans to knock it down, but those plans went up in smoke when the long-abandoned factory burned in a massive fire in June 2018.
After the McCray factory left the tax rolls, annual tax sale totals were still artifically inflated due to unpaid taxes on the former Kendallville Event Center parking lot. That lot, previously owned by defunct development firm Rainstar Inc., had accumulated more than $196,000 in back taxes as of last year.
Since then, Pine Hills Church purchased the event center and, as part of the deal, also accepted title to the parking lot once the county wiped the delinquent taxes off it.
Taking the former Rainstar lot out of the equation, the total delinquent this year is actually a little higher than in 2020 — $390,837.65 versus $358,490.34 last year with the event center lot subtracted from the 2020 total.
With Kendallville’s two large problem properties no longer on the unpaid list, Noble County is left with only smaller delinquent accounts.
That’s left an industrial building in Merriam as the biggest delinquent property.
Minthorn Enterprises LLC, 0071 E. C.R. 400S, Albion, now tops the list, with $29,542.81 owed on two adjacent parcels.
It’s the second time in three years that the Minthorn building located just north of the S.R. 9/U.S. 33 intersection in Merriam has hit the list. The company owed $25,542.76 in back taxes in the 2019 tax sale and was No. 2 on the most-delinquent list behind only the Rainstar parking lot.
The building never made it to the tax sale that year — the company paid its overdue amount in full on Oct. 18, 2019, the morning of the tax sale, in order to get it off the list — but hasn’t paid a penny in taxes since, according to county property records, once again landing it on the sale inventory.
That’s the case for another industrial building that was long on the list, got paid in 2019 and now is back.
In the Ligonier industrial park, the building at 911 Gerber St. owned by Roger L. Beiler is back on the tax sale again this year, with $17,851.05 owed.
Beiler’s building went through a tax sale in 2018 and wasn’t sold, then appeared on the list again in 2019.
Beiler, who owed just over $20,000 in back taxes in 2019, paid that amount off prior to the tax sale that year, but then more than a year without paying again. Unlike Minthorn, a partial payment of $7,000 was made in May, but the property still has a majority of its tax bill unpaid.
The number of properties owing more than $10,000 in delinquent taxes increased this year, with 11 lots over that amount as compared to six last year.
As most residential tax amounts of lower and properties land on the sale after missing three consecutive payments, most properties never get above $10,000 in back taxes. Properties that surpass that amount are either typically industrial or commercial properties that have a much higher value and annual tax bill, or other problem properties that have been on the sale year after year and keep accumulating principal and penalties.
Of the 11 properties on this year’s tax sale list, four of them fit that description, having appeared multiple years before and never selling at the sale. Most properties available at the tax sale do sell, with the ones that remain unbid at the ending up that way typically because either the amount of too grossly high compared to the property’s value and use or, in many cases, because the property is effectively useless and worth nothing.
Those four properties — Bluebonnet Homes & Property, 2581 S. Lakeside Drive, Albion, $18,554.60 owed; Pipeline Properties, corner north of C.R. 1150N, Wolcottville, $14,611.27 owed; KRE Assets LLC, 2554 S. Jarr St, Albion, $17,278.76 owed; and Jack F. Wonderly, 1210 S. C.R. 90W, Albion, $12,842.20 — all were on last year’s tax sale list, didn’t sell and now are back with even higher delinquent amounts.