DOVER, Del.- Unpaid property taxes are costing Delaware school districts millions of dollars. State lawmakers want to fix that.
The proposed system is called tax intercept. It's already used to retrieve money people owe for things such as child support.
The bill under consideration would allow school districts and counties to take money from a person's income tax refund if they haven't paid their property taxes.
"We have about $700,000 in unpaid taxes," said John Ewald, superintendent at Laurel School District. "That, of course, could go a long way for our students. The tax intercept bill would allow us to receive some of that funding."
That number is even larger in other districts. The bill's sponsor Rep. Danny Short says, for example, Indian River's number is $2.9 million. Capital School District in Dover says it is missing out on about $2 million in property tax due from 2010 to 2012. Current law specifically prohibits districts from using tax intercept to get the money. Short says they need this mechanism to deal with people avoiding paying what they owe.
"The intercept doesn't mean we just take the money. It's better than that. It means they get notified that we're going to take the money if they don't come in and settle their bill."
That might provide the opportunity to set up something like a payment plan. By whatever method, for districts like Laurel, getting as much of the money they're owed as possible is important right now as some funding sources are drying up.
"We have about $180,000 we're about to lose with sequestration," Ewald said. "We have Race to the Top that will go away next year. So, any type of tax revenue that the school can count on and plan for, with our students in mind, is going to be beneficial."
The state House of Representatives could vote on this bill next week. Last year the chamber gave it unanimous approval. But it stalled in the Senate.
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