Apollo-Ridge board considers publishing tax deadbeats' names

| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 7:43 a.m.

The Apollo-Ridge School District may post on its website a list of residents who still owe property taxes after the Dec. 31 deadline.

The board will vote on Monday whether to post the list in January in an effort to recoup some of the money the district is owed in late and delinquent property taxes.

Currently, the owners of 757 parcels owe the district about $750,000 in total, according to Business Manager Jennie Ivory.

That figure is comparable to about 8 tax mills in Armstrong County, where roughly 80 percent of district residents live. Apollo-Ridge also services Young Township in Indiana County.

Board President Greg Primm believes the move would motivate the majority of delinquent property owners to pay their bills. Still, he said, he'll vote on Monday with “mixed feelings.”

“There certainly are a great deal of people in this area who genuinely cannot pay their tax bills,” Primm said. “The last thing we want to do is embarrass those people.

“But the vast majority can pay them, and we owe it to the 88 percent who have already paid.”

School district property tax bills are issued each August for the upcoming school year, according to Primm. If they're not paid by the due date in March of the following year, they're considered late and collected with a 10 percent penalty. Late bills that are not paid by Dec. 31 are deemed delinquent and transferred to the county tax claim bureau.

Pending board approval next week, the list would likely be posted on the district website in late January, Ivory said.

The list would not include the names of delinquent property owners who have already entered into payment plans to settle their debts. It would be updated monthly to remove the names of those who've paid their delinquent bills following the initial publication.

If the measure passes, district officials would review the list's efficacy sometime in early 2015. They'll decide then whether to publish the remaining delinquent property owners in the Valley News Dispatch to reach a wider scope of people.

In February, the Highlands School District printed in the VND its list of delinquent property owners leading up through the 2012-13 school year. By May, a dozen property owners had paid their delinquent bills and Jon Rupert, the district business manager, predicted the district would clear at least $1 million in money owed.

After-hours calls to Rupert and Highlands Superintendent Michael Bjalobok were unsuccessful on Monday.

According to Primm, a large number of the offenders in Apollo-Ridge are businesses.

Many of them, he said, pay only their oldest delinquent taxes each year to avoid sheriff's sale.

“It would be interesting to see who would be on the list,” Primm said. “I think we'd find out there are a lot of businesses who can definitely afford to pay it.”

District savings

The Apollo-Ridge School District will save close to $200,000 in interest over the next two years on old bond issues that were recently refinanced.

The school board in June authorized the refinancing of $8 million in bonds left over from 2006 and 2010 issues. Business Manager Jennie Ivory said the refinancing will save about $104,000 over the 2014-15 school year and $90,000 the school year after that.

Apollo-Ridge issued the first bond in 2006 to help build its elementary school and the second in 2010 for its football stadium. The remaining money was refinanced, Ivory said, for lower interest rates available in the current marketplace.

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com.

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