2NEWS Investigators uncover millions in unpaid property taxes for 2013 in Tulsa County

TULSA - The 2NEWS Investigators have once again uncovered millions of dollars in unpaid property taxes.

RELATED STORY (7/24/13): State owes Tulsa County almost $2 million in property taxes

That unpaid money is owed to Tulsa County. When people, businesses and even the State of Oklahoma fail to pay their county property taxes on time, or fail to pay entirely, local governments and schools suffer.

Becky Stanford and Rae Lynn Toole enjoy taking their children to River Parks.  The women each own a home in Tulsa County.  Toole also owns business property with her husband.  We asked why they always pay their property taxes on time, and in full?  For Toole, the answer was simple. “Because property takes are the way that we fund our education.”

However, not everyone in Tulsa County pays up when their property tax bill comes due.  So, for the second straight year, the 2NEWS investigators dug into delinquent tax records to see how much has not been paid.  For tax year 2013, we found more than 19,000 properties with delinquent taxes.  We added up all the delinquent taxes. The total came to almost $18 million. Stanford’s reaction, “It’s shocking!”

“It’s a serious matter when taxes are delinquent," said Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard.

That’s because 57 percent of the money generated by property taxes in Tulsa County goes to public schools.

If all 2013 Tulsa County delinquent taxes earmarked for schools was spent just on starting teacher salaries it could pay for 307 positions. Schools use a portion of the money they get from property taxes to pay for teachers, but it also helps pay the salaries of other school personnel as well as for classroom necessities such as textbooks. “You know you need to look into your children’s faces and know when you don’t pay your property taxes it’s directly affecting them,” said Toole.

Public schools teaching grades K through 12 aren’t the only educational institutions that rely on property taxes to help pay their bills.

Tulsa Technology Center and Tulsa Community College also get some funding from property taxes. Cities within Tulsa County and the county itself receive a slice of the property tax pie.

Local governments use the money to fund a wide variety of services including parks and the City/County Health Department and libraries.

People who don’t pay their property taxes face penalties.

They’re hit with a one and half percent interest charge each month plus they’re subject to a variety of fees. If property taxes remain unpaid for three and a half years the County usually puts the property up for auction to settle the debt. This year’s auction will is scheduled for June 9.

Who owes the most unpaid property taxes for 2013? Watch Marla Carter’s property tax investigation Monday on 2NEWS at 10 .

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