Commissioners to consider allowing online tax sale certificate sales

At least three viable properties in Bartholomew County could be sold online at prices well below market value, pending approval by the county.

On Monday, the Bartholomew County Commissioners will consider approving a resolution to sell tax sale certificates through the internet, Bartholomew County Treasurer Barb Hackman said. After tax sale certificates are purchased, they can be used to obtain properties that haven’t provided property taxes for as far back as 2015, Hackman said.

“These are always difficult low-value properties or they would have been purchased at normal tax sales,” commissioners’ Chairman Larry Kleinhenz said.

Hackman said most of these parcels didn’t sell during conventional tax sales because they are very small, Hackman said. At least one exists only to serve as a stormwater drain for larger adjacent properties, she said.

“We don’t want to sell something that is really not a viable piece of property,” Hackman said.

For that reason, Hackman plans to meet with County Assessor Ginny Whipple to discuss the best ways to handle the smallest parcels, the county treasurer said.

During conventional tax sales, the minimum floor to start bidding is the amount the owner is delinquent in paying in property taxes, Kleinhenz said. But in a tax certificates sale held under the auspices of the commissioners, the minimum floor is usually 10 to 20% of the delinquent amount, he said.

“Our goal is to get these difficult properties in the hands of citizens who will make an investment into improvements and ultimately get the property back to being productive,” Kleinhenz said.

These properties will go back on the tax rolls if made productive again, Hackman said.

If the commissioners approve the proposal Monday, they will establish a discounted price for each parcel listed in their resolution. The approved item list and reduced minimum bids will then be published for three consecutive weeks in The Republic, and at least 30 days prior to the certificate sale.

Hackman tried diligently to contact the original owners to work out a plan for getting property taxes paid up before properties are put on a tax sale, Kleinhenz said.

The county treasurer says she’s also learned to make sure a structure is still where records indicate it is before trying to sell it.

“In one case, it wasn’t,” Hackman said. “So we had to pull that from the tax sale.”

The commissioners have sold properties through tax sale certificates before, Kleinhenz said. But if approved during the commissioners’ 10 a.m. meeting Monday, this will be the first time the process will be conducted completely online, he said.