Commissioners discuss back taxes for former distribution center

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton The number of delinquent properties in Warren County is down but the amount of unpaid taxes is not, largely due to an $800,000 tax bill for the two parcels that make up the now-shuttered Irvine Distribution Center.

Over $800,000 in back taxes are owed in connection with the site of the former Irvine Distribution Center.

The Warren County Commissioners discussed the issue during Monday’s work session, broadening the conversation to whether challenges like this mean the county should look at a different tax collection structure.

Tax Claim Director Phil Gilbert said that the first year of available data shows that 11 percent of parcels went unpaid and were turned over to the Tax Claim Bureau, which oversees the tax sale process, for collection.

That number dipped to 8.57 percent in 2023.

“I think that’s attributed to having the website updated, online payments, people can search when they pay online,” he said. “(There are a) combination of things that help get that number down.”

While the number of parcels is down by over 650 since 2013, the amount doesn’t drop accordingly.

That’s because of the taxes owed by Guardian Reh Fee Owner LP, a Pomona, NY-based firm, that owns the two parcels in Irvine where the distribution center was located.

The facility was closed in 2021 and resulted in nearly 300 employees losing their jobs. The corporate parent for the distribution center had declared bankruptcy in 2020.

The total number of the delinquent taxes returned to the Tax Claim Bureau total $3.17 million, very similar to 2022’s total.

But Gilbert said that the former IDC is $806,000 of that total, explaining that about $500,000 is school tax, $200,000 is county tax and the remainder would go to Pleasant Township.

“That’s a huge chunk that’s delinquent,” he said.

Gilbert said the properties are currently set to be included in this fall’s upset tax sale, but Gilbert speculated that the owners would likely pay one delinquent year to avoid the sale.

There’s a significant investment to protect as county assessment records show that the current owner purchased the parcels for $23.5 million in a deal that closed in Jan. 2022.

“The price that was paid for these properties was significant,” Solicitor Nathaniell Schmidt. “Understanding their plans might be interesting.”

Data provided by Gilbert notes that, at this stage, there are penalties and interest tacked on to the delinquent tax total.

“If those property owners would have been paying timely, the amount outstanding for 2023 would have gone down significantly,” Commissioner Tricia Durbin said. “That is a lot of money that we’re behind.

“It’s a lot to have to be without for a long period of time while we’re trying to run the operations of the county.”

There was brief discussion about what options the county and other taxing bodies might have to recoup the funds.

Durbin then suggested that the county should research what “other counties do as it relates to taxes.”

Currently, each municipality’s tax collector collects municipal, school and county tax under one shared bill. The budget cycles don’t match though – the county and municipalities operate on a Jan. 1-Dec. 31 cycle while the WCSD runs its budget year from July to June like the state.

Durbin said that it “seems like very few counties” continue with the consolidated effort and that she would like to explore a scenario where the municipalities, county and school district collect taxes separately.

“That gets very messy real quick,” Gilbert said.

Durbin said she’s thinking from a cash flow perspective.

“There has to be a best practice out there,” she said.


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