The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

May 15, 2013

Unpaid taxes growing in Conneaut

CONNEAUT — Money owed the city of Conneaut by delinquent tax payers continues to climb, according to Finance Director John Williams.

Since 2006, the unpaid municipal income tax still owed has reached nearly $439,000, Williams said. When penalties and interest are added, the total exceeds $726,000, he said.

This revenue source for a cash-starved community has not gone unnoticed, Williams said. Taxpayers are given ample opportunity to pay their debt, and those that don’t are contacted by a collection agency, he said. In the most severe cases, the city’s prosecutor can cite them into court.

“We are pursuing all of these dollars aggressively,” Williams told City Council at Monday night’s meeting.

Presently, there are 1,111 delinquent accounts on the books, and 497 of them — nearly half — have been turned over to a collection agency, said Larry Gasch, who oversees the finance department’s income tax division.

Tax delinquencies skyrocketed in 2012, the $108,198 total the first time money owed entered the six-figure realm, according to reports. Numbers for last year jumped nearly $20,000 compared to 2011, Williams said.

The number of delinquent accounts has started to climb in just the past few years, when the economy started to sputter, Gasch said. Between 2007 and 2008, cases jumped by 200, and has grown by about 100 every year since then, he said.

Meanwhile, income tax collections so far this year are down somewhat compared to this time in 2012, Williams said. For the first four months of the year, collections are off nearly $61,000, he said. After a January that outpaced last year, collections sagged in February and March before rebounding in April, according to records.

The difference is more likely due to the timing of tax withholding payments from employers instead of a sour economy, Williams said.

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