Tax delinquencies in Columbiana County, Ohio have dropped from $11 million in January 2013 to the current $10 million as a result of county officials mailing warnings to property owners to avoid foreclosure by paying in 30 days or arranging a payment plan.

Now, county officials want a faster, more efficient alternative to help lower delinquencies even more. Columbiana County Treasurer Linda Bolon has notified county commissioners that she is reviewing contracting with a company to pursue the county's long-term property tax delinquents.

Tax Ease Ohio LLC is used by at least 24 other Ohio counties. The county would sell its delinquent properties as a bundle through a tax lien sale and the successful bidder would pursue the delinquent taxes, with property owners given up to one year to pay their delinquent taxes, along with interest of up to 18%, fees and penalties. After one year the company could start foreclosure proceedings.

"It's basically like a collection agency," she said.

Bolon said only long-term, hard-to-collect delinquent properties likely would be included in the tax lien sale. She plans to meet with Tax Ease in May and hopes to be able to hold a tax lien sale in 2015.

Any money received from the tax lien sale would be distributed by the treasurer's office to local governments. Bolon said it's impossible for a limited county staff to keep up with the millions in back taxes. She said many local entities rely on the taxes as a source of operating income, including school districts that receive 70% of all property taxes.

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