Cities and schools owed millions in delinquent property taxes - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Cities and schools owed millions in delinquent property taxes

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV)-- Attorneys say East Texas cities and school districts are missing out on millions of dollars each year because of unpaid property taxes.

They said this year Tyler ISD alone is owed about four million dollars in delinquent taxes.

Thursday attorneys spent hours in court trying to find that money, but they said it's much more difficult than just sending out collection notices. Often times the property owners are no where to be found.

Almost 100 cases went to trial Thursday. They were all instances where people failed to pay property taxes to various Smith County cities or schools... leaving attorneys to collect that money

"If we do not raise the money or it does not get paid through property taxes that means there is no money for our school teachers, money for our police officers or our firemen," attorney David Hudson said. "It's important for the governmental entities to support those positions by having these bills paid," he said.

Legal assistant Heather Guzman said she researched 29 of Thursday's herself... trying to track down the people who haven't been paying.

"We have to do the best we can to find someone.. It's required by law that we do send letters out and gather information to try and locate their heirs," Guzman said.

Attorneys said in many cases, the property owner is deceased and their heirs are no where to be found. Attorneys said in some cases the land itself is actually worth thousands of dollars less than what is owed in property taxes on that same land. It's properties like those that get turned over to attorneys.

"If the taxes do not get paid we have the legal right and the responsibility to sell people's property on the courthouse steps and try to raise the money to pay the taxes in that way," Hudson said.

"Once we do sell them the new owners will pay taxes so it helps and it gets caught up, but in the middle of that you have someone else who passed away and their family doesn't want anything to do with this property," Guzman said.

She said it's a never ending process, that leaves the county with vacant properties and less money in the  bank.

Hudson and Guzeman said four times a year they represent multiple East Texas school districts and cities in court trying to collect these delinquent property taxes.

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