Collection law firm Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson, which collects tax delinquencies for Victoria County, Texas, reports the unpaid tax balance for 15 entities in the county totals nearly $11 million, up 11% since 2013 and up 300% in the last decade.
The Corpus Christi, Texas-based firm presented a report on the debt total to Victoria County commissioners last week. It showed the firm’s approach to tax collections, which it labeled as more aggressive, has resulted in a 34% jump in money collected. In the most recent tax year, the firm collected $3.9 million. From October 2013 to September 2014, the firm collected $2.9 million for all Victoria jurisdictions - including the city of Victoria, the county, four school districts and utility and water districts.
Steven Saucedo, a partner with the collection law firm, said the numbers represent an increased effort by the firm to collect for the county, which includes having more employees working to settle the accounts. Within the past year, the firm has filed 184 lawsuits on 225 tracts, which have the potential to bring in $1.1 million. There already are 489 lawsuits pending on 635 tracts that total about $3 million in unpaid taxes, according to the report.
He said the firm sends nine delinquent tax warnings per account, targeting larger accounts and continuing with the prosecution of existing lawsuits until a payment is received.
Victoria County Judge Ben Zeller said there are still numbers he'd like to crunch to see how they correlate with the overall change in delinquent taxes versus what's being collected. Still, he credited the firm's work and called it highly beneficial to the county. Zeller, who said the county sets its budget on the perception it will collect 97% of property taxes, said using an outside agency is the most effective way for the county to collect unpaid taxes.
Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson has worked for the county since 1998 and is paid 15% of all taxes, penalties and interest collected and paid to the county taxing entities. The fee is assessed per state law.
The firm collected $627,858 in the 2014-2015 tax year.
Zeller said the county would have to staff an entirely new department to collect the delinquent taxes internally. He credited the firm for its willingness to work with property owners to help establish payment arrangements before taking anyone’s property. Of the 29 properties set to be sold this year because of unpaid taxes, the firm was able to work out payment agreements on 19 to avoid the auction block, according to the report.