ALBION — Noble County will look to collect slightly more than a half-million dollars in back taxes via this year’s tax sale.
While the listing contains a few big-dollar frequent fliers that never get collected, one of the new and largest delinquent accounts this year is a LaOtto-area tourist attraction.
This year, Noble County has 129 properties listed for tax sale with the total back taxes and fines owed totaling $555,092.66, according to the initial list compiled by the Noble County Auditor’s Office. The full listing of delinquent properties can be found in a legal advertisement on Page A3 in today’s edition.
That list is likely to get pared down significantly as several property owners typically pay off their delinquent amounts and are removed from the sale listing before it happens. This year’s tax sale is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 8 in the Dekko Room of the Noble County South Office Complex.
Despite COVID-19 and concerns that the sudden downturn in the economy right before the May property tax deadline might affect payments, this year’s tax sale roster actually has slightly fewer properties and a slightly lower delinquent amount than 2019.
However, as properties aren’t listed for sale until they miss three consecutive payments, the full effects of COVID-19 on property taxes may not be seen until next year.
This year’s tax sale total is down 19 properties compared to 2019’s 148, with the overdue total about $7,000 lower than last year’s $562,022.24. The 2019 listing was up slightly compared to 2018, when 124 properties were listed for a total of $537,317.91 overdue, making this year a little higher in both measures than 2018.
The annual tax sale is the county’s effort to collect unpaid taxes by selling tax liens to interested bidders.
Buyers at the tax sale don’t buy a property outright, but instead purchase a tax lien on the property. Bidders pay the overdue amount to the county and then hold the lien over the property owner, which they can attempt to collect with interest, making tax liens a short-term investment option for people with the money to buy.
If a property owner doesn’t redeem the property from the lienholder within a year, that lienholder can then petition to the court for a tax deed to assume ownership of the property.
When property owners don’t pay their taxes, those unpaid taxes are funds that local government units expect to get to fund operations but don’t receive. Tax sales allow those government units including the county, cities and towns, schools, libraries and townships to recoup those lost funds, albeit later than they originally anticipated receiving them.
This year’s annual tax collection is expected to be about $46.6 million, so the 2020 delinquent amount only represents about 1.2% of the total annual tax collection for the entire county.
This year’s most delinquent property is the Kendallville Event Center parking lot property, owned by the now-defunct Rainstar Inc. development corporation.
No property taxes have been paid on that lot, which primarily serves the event center, since previous Rainstar principal Eugene Mory died in 2014. The development corporation has since been dissolved with the state as a business entity, although it continues to own property and have the tax liability to this day.
The event center, which is owned by Goeglein’s Catering and has been listed for sale since July 2019, has a permanent easement to use the lot, although it does not own the lot or pay taxes on it. Goeglein’s has said in the past that it plows, stripes and maintains the lot, even though it does not own it.
Goeglein’s, after missing the fall 2019 tax payment, followed up with a late payment in February and paid its May taxes and is current with the county heading into fall.
The Rainstar Inc. parking lot serving the center now has $196,602.32 in back taxes owed, with little expectation that anyone will purchase it at this year’s sale after it’s gone unsold every year since 2016.
The second-most delinquent property this year is new to the sale list — Moose Lake Christian Craft Village in LaOtto.
The local attraction has four parcels associated with it under the ownership names Raccoon Ridge LLC and Key Large Realty, with total of $47,263.20 past due.
Moose Lake had been mostly shuttered even before COVID-19 came to northeast Indiana. Owner Doug Jennings posted in January that the attraction was closed until March, then when March came he announced that the business would remain closed.
In a post in April, Jennings announced that he was selling the property due to ongoing health issues.
“Our Thoughts and Prayers Are with You and Your Families for good Health. Prayers are so Important as God is The Great Physician,” Moose Lake posted to its Facebook page. “PRIMARILY AS A RESULT OF MY ON GOING HEALTH ISSUES, WE ARE ANNOUNCING THAT MOOSE LAKE CHRISTIAN CRAFT VILLAGE IS FOR SALE. If you or anyone you know, has a serious interest in purchasing Moose Lake, please send me a message.”
Financial issues with the property appear to have developed before then.
The last tax payments made on any Moose Lake came back in May 2018. The business missed its fall installment in 2018 and didn’t pay at all in 2019 and missed this year’s spring tax installment, too.
Noble County Economic Development had listed the site as an “Investment Opp” on its website as far back as February 2019, although the page doesn’t elaborate as to what that investment opportunity meant and contains a now-defunct link to a Fort Wayne-based commercial real estate firm.
A phone call placed to the number listed via Moose Lake’s Facebook page rang without answer and a message sent to the business was not returned as of Tuesday afternoon.
Other than those two properties, this year’s tax sale list only has four other properties with $10,000 or more in unpaid taxes.
Those included Pipeline Properties, near 101 E. C.R. 1150N, Wolcottville, a landlocked piece of land near a concrete plant that has appeared for many years with no resolution that now owes $13,653.76; a small lakeside lot on High Lake owned by KRE Assets that failed to sell in last year’s sale, now at $13,172.57 overdue; another High Lake property at 2581 S. Lakeside Drive, owned by Bluebonnet Homes and Property that also didn’t sell in 2019, now at $15,632.89 overdue; and a lake property at Silver Lake, 1210 S. C.R. 90W, where the county had previously torn down an unsafe structure, owing $11,116.90.