The funds are generated by the redemption or sale of tax delinquent properties certified to the Commissioner's office. Thurston said, "Once properties are redeemed by the original owners or sold at public auction, the funds collected are forwarded to the county where the property is located, one year after the collection date." The Commissioner's office says government agencies depend on the revenue. "Property taxes play a vital role in the stability of county revenues. Public schools and county services depend on real estate tax dollars in funding their programs. Without these funds, our communities may miss out on essential programs and growth, " Thurston said.
Sharp County Treasurer Wanda Girtman said $314,000 of the money was from funds generated at auction, which landowners did not claim by paying back taxes. The funds go into the county's General Fund, which Judge Larry Brown said will benefit the county's reserve fund.
According to the Land Commissioners office, the main purpose of the state lands office is to collect back taxes on delinquent properties, or generate new revenues by selling properties at auction.
Once the taxes are paid, landowners are issued a Redemption Deed, which allows them to resume paying their taxes to the county.
If the owner does not redeem the property in two years after it is sent to the commissioners office, it is offered for sale at a public auction, which is held once a year in all counties in the state. Thurston was present for the Aug. 2 sale at Sharp County.
Once the land is sold, the owner still has 30 days to pay the taxes. If the owner redeems the land, the person attempting to purchase the land at the auction is reimbursed the entire amount they paid for the parcel.
If the property does not sell and the owner does not redeem the property, the office retains the property for 90 days and then puts it on a negotiated sales list.
Owners may also claim excess funds for property sold through the land commissioners office, but many do not, and a large portion of the turnback money for the county in 2011 came from this source.
Sharp County received over three times the turnback funds of other counties. Fulton County received $108,752.40, Lawrence $80,196.95 and Independence, $87,929.88.