UPDATE: Marion County reschedules canceled tax sale for early 2020

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Marion County will hold its 2019 tax sale early next year, after a clerical error forced the Treasurer’s Office to cancel the event scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

According to the Treasurer’s Office, about 1,192 parcels were up for bid as part of the sale, with minimum bids totaling just more than $6 million.

The county informed registered bidders and the public late Wednesday—through its website, an email and a recorded message on the office’s phone line—that a “clerical error in required legal submissions” would prevent the two-day event from going on as scheduled.

While those properties were expected to move to next year’s event, scheduled for Oct. 22-23, 2020, the the county said late Thursday the 2019 sale will occur Friday, Feb. 14.

The switch comes after “[all] agencies involved in administering the tax sale … worked together to map out the legal process” to reschedule the event, according to a news release from the Auditor’s Office.

Indiana law only permits counties to hold a tax sale once every year, and the Marion County event has historically been held in the fall. But the county said it will be able to have both sales next year because they involve tax records from different years.

Delinquent property owners will have until Nov. 12 to repay taxes on the properties and remove them from the sale. Each minimum bid is calculated by the amount of taxes, penalties and special assessments due on the property, as well as administrative costs.

The Treasurer’s Office has not said what clerical error caused the 2019 sale to be canceled.

A lengthy legal process is required before a property can be listed at the year tax sale, including a three-month notification period for property owners affected by the auction and judicial certification that a property qualifies for the tax sale. Properties that are at least 15 months delinquent on property taxes three months prior to the sale are eligible to be included in the sale.

The affected properties also cannot be placed in the spring surplus sale, because that is only open to parcels that don’t receive bids during the regular tax sale, provided they go through an additional notification period to give the property owner another chance to catch up on taxes.

Bidders who registered to participate in this year’s sale will be refunded their $1,000 deposits “by the end of the week,” the county said.

The tax sale is one of Marion County’s larger outside revenue sources, with many properties receiving multiple bids that drive the final sale price higher than what’s owed on the parcels.

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13 thoughts on “UPDATE: Marion County reschedules canceled tax sale for early 2020

  1. This is a pretty good example of the outputs of the patronage employees of our “elected” minor county officers (treasurer, auditor, assessor, etc.). I say “elected” because they mostly are slated by the county parties and elected on near-party line votes.

    It’s time to change the system and eliminate a bunch of these elected positions…make them appointed by the mayor and confirmed by council and strictly limit the number of patronage “deputy” positions.

  2. Will anyone be held accountable for this snafu? Or do we just collectively mutter “oops” and accept more incompetence and mediocrity when $6 million dollars vanishes into thin air? There needs to be an independent, outside, non-political investigation of how this “clerical error” occurred, what processes or systems need to be changed to prevent it from ever happening again, and yes, what individual (or individuals) were responsible. Unless and until then, no one should have any confidence in our state, county, or city governments.

    1. It was moved back a year, the 6mm will still be made just 12 months later.

      The only thing lost was the time value of that revenue.

      Still embarrassing though

    2. And this has nothing to do with state government, nor the Mayor’s office. This one is all on the office that is responsible for tax sales…the county treasurer, a separately elected official.

    3. James M. The amount they reported is way below the actual amount. If all the properties had been sold at minimum it would be 6 million. The real number is more than twice that. The bigger issue I see is that many of these properties are abandoned, or should be abandoned and will now sit for an extra year without anyone taking care of them. Had the sale happenened it would be a year before investors who bought them could begin fixing them to sale or rent. Now it will be 2 years before that can happen. On top of that the city will be adding fines against the property for health code violations, which many already have. In turn it will increase the amount it cost to bid on them next year to the point it will not be economically viable for anyone to bid on them. Which will lead to have them sitting empty and vacant for even longer until they end up in a surplus sale, the City takes a loss if this happens because they agree to wave all fines and back taxes owed and simply take the lowest bid. This is a snafu that will have a lasting impact in many poorer areas for years to come. So when you happen to drive through any areas with broken down, abandoned houses and wonder why the City hasn’t done anything about the problem, remember that they have now extended it even longer with no recourse to do anything about it.

    4. @James/Michael – How are you guys getting one year from this? October to February is only five months. Also, $6M didn’t vanish into thin air. $6M is the min value of the sale. The sale has been postponed – not cancelled.

    5. As far as I know, the sale was postponed until next October. I don’t know where they got the February date for this story. The city’s own page has it as next October. I’m sure most people are not aware that a lot of over bids on properties do not get claimed by the current owner of the property. The City keeps it once the date to file for this money passes. Again my concern is how many abanded homes will now sit for at least another year, if not more because of this screw up.

    6. This is 2nd update to the story. Originally the county wasn’t going to reschedule until October. They re-examined the legalities of the situation and determined they could do it earlier in 2020 and still have the one originally planned, like every year, in October as well.

  3. Chris B. When one level of government screws up, it undermines confidence in all levels of government. It was only a couple weeks ago when the state discovered it had erred in applying a formula to award state funds to Indianapolis for road repairs – something that was overlooked since the mid-2000s. It makes one wonder what other mistakes are just waiting to be exposed?

    1. Right. So when the cashier at Kroger or Target screws up, you lose confidence in the whole company up to the CEO? Or do you talk to the store manager and see if s/he can resolve the issue? When did the world turn into a place where it’s “one strike and EVERYONE is out”?

  4. Apparently, last year all the properties sold at the same sale had to be invalidated for another clerical noticing error. The real issues are the properties remain abandoned, blighted, etc. and the county misses another tax installment until these properties are owned by a responsible, paying, property owner. I believe Marion County may be the only county still trying to do their own legal noticing, and this is 2 sales in a row that were fouled up…

    1. Tom – where are you getting this information? I’m a tax sale buyer from last year. and for over a decade. I talk to the auditor’s office weekly and as far as I know there are no issues with the 2018 sale. Of course something may have happened to property here and there, like always, but nothing has been reported regarding the entire sale.

  5. Chris B. The standards for public servants are higher than for cashiers at the local store. They actually have a shared fiduciary duty of trust. I for one do not accept mediocrity by anyone working within government, regardless of pay grade, position, or title.