Madison County may owe town, school and fire taxes on several parcels of property retained from prior tax auctions, according to information discussed at an emergency meeting called by the Madison County Board of Supervisors Planning Committee Friday.
The properties were withheld for logging purposes and not for public use then coded improperly, according to Deputy Treasurer Paula Tayntor and Director of the Office of Real Property Services Carol Brophy.
That coding error resulted in assessors labeling the properties as tax-exempt.
At the Aug. 12 meeting to finalize the annual Madison County land sale listings, committee members voted unanimously to sell a number of parcels that had been kept by the county for a variety of purposes. They either hadn't been used for their intended purposes or would be more profitable for county coffers by being on the tax rolls, Tayntor said.
But after the committee voted unanimously Aug. 12 to sell several county-owned properties, Jim Petreszyn of the county's Planning Department voiced opposition to the proposed sale of several "reforestation" properties. One 54-acre property on Gorton Lake in Brookfield has a 25-year history of involvement in the county's annual land auction, Brophy said. That property was retained for reforestation back in 1984, Tayntor said, and had been logged until about three years ago.
"It would appear we should have paid taxes all those years if it truly is being used for reforestation," Brophy said. "The code should be specific to the use."
The exact number of properties affected and the amount of taxes owed on them was not determined as of the meeting. Tayntor said the county would only be liable for one year's back taxes under law.
According to Tayntor, the Gorton Lake property has brought in about $30,000 in logging revenue over the past decade and wouldn't be logged again for another five years or so. She said despite the waterfront portion of the property being swampy, a good portion of the 54 acres is developable, and the tax revenue to the county in that situation would far exceed the $3,000-a-year average seen from the timber.