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Property owner, Saline county trying to solve property tax discrepancy

By Travis DeNeal
updated: 1/11/2018 7:48 PM

SALINE COUNTY -- A Midlothian woman who owns property in Harrisburg is upset about delinquent tax notices and says she's not certain who has the right answers.

Meanwhile, some Saline County officeholders have been working with her to make sense of the matter.

Jewell Ethridge said she deeded over her home and property at 635 W. Barnett St. in 2012 to her son, Richard Ethridge. Ethridge said she continued to pay property taxes for at least that tax year and the following year before leaving it up to her son.

She said she was shocked when she received notice that Saline County considered property taxes unpaid and delinquent for the years since, that tax liens had been auctioned and that she stands to lose the property if they're not paid by Jan. 19.

In trying to make sense of what happened, she called several county offices and mailed at least one certified check for the 2013 amount to keep from possibly losing the property until she and officials can sort out what has happened.

But, she said she received that check back in the mail and believes another certified check she sent also will be returned.

"I paid what they said I needed to pay, and now I got it back," Ethridge said. "It seems like I'm doing every thing they tell me, but they're bound and determined we're going to lose that property."

She also said she has canceled checks from her bank showing where property taxes were paid in 2013 and 2014, but that a person to whom she spoke said that was not enough evidence that the bill had been paid on time those years.

Ethridge's situation illustrates the complexity of resolving unpaid property taxes when they are past due.

Saline County Chief Assessment Officer Sheryl Pearce said she spoke with Ethridge about the matter first, but was unable to do more than simply refer her to Saline County Clerk Kim Buchanan. That's because while Pearce's office makes property assessments, they are not involved in delinquent taxes.

Buchanan said state law is very particular about how delinquent taxes are handled, and her office is working to see if they can help Ethridge.

"There is a very clear process how this is handled," Buchanan said.

She said her office only may accept cash, a cashier's check or a money order to pay delinquent taxes. Personal checks won't be accepted.

However, she said, if an incorrect amount is received, it also will not be accepted. While she's investigating Ethridge's case, she speculated that Ethridge may have been told the amount due, but that if too much time passed and penalty interest was calculated before the check was received, it would not be permitted to be accepted.

Buchanan said she would contact county Treasurer Jeff Murrie to see if Ethridge's funds from 2013 and 2014 may have been misapplied. The treasurer's office receives property tax payments up to the due date. Murrie was appointed treasurer in 2016.

Buchanan also said she would contact Ethridge to gain further clarification on the matter, to give assistance and provide contact numbers where necessary before the Jan. 19 deadline.