Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 9, 2012

Miami Co. puts $15 price tag on land

Commissioners eager to get parcels back into taxation

By Carson Gerber
Tribune staff writer

— PERU — What can you buy for $15? Early next year, you could snag a piece of Miami County property.

On Monday, commissioners approved the paltry $15 price tag in an aggressive effort to get properties with delinquent taxes into the hands of tax-paying citizens and back onto the county’s payroll.

The proposal comes after a recent tax sale in which just 48 properties with unpaid taxes were purchased out of 192 up for sale. The auction brought in nearly $77,000.

Now, commissioners want the remaining 144 properties — which have a total $446,500 in unpaid property taxes — to be sold at a commissioners’ sale slated for January, and they hope the $15 starting price will entice buyers to the auction.

Commissioners first considered only charging $1 for parcels, but decided to slightly raise the price in order to cover the county’s advertising and auction expenses.

Debbie Cunningham, land deputy in the auditor’s office, said although $15 is the starting price on the auctioned properties, buyers can expect to pay around $600 for attorney fees and title searches on the parcels.

She said most of the properties are located in Peru, and some contain dilapidated structures that need to be fixed or torn down.

To help ensure buyers actually pay property taxes once they purchase a parcel, commissioners said they plan to ban anyone with unpaid taxes from participating in the sale.

“That’s where we’re running into trouble,” said Commissioner Jon Faust. “People are buying these properties, letting them sit and not paying anything on them. Then we’re right back to where we started.”

Commissioners said they plan to notify property owners adjacent to up-for-sale parcels about the commissioners’ sale. They also said they are considering forcing buyers to either bring structures located on the properties up to building codes, or tear them down if they’re beyond repair.