More than 950 properties with unpaid taxes were auctioned at last week's Beaufort County tax sale, raising almost $23.4 million, according to Treasurer Doug Henderson.
Revenue from the sale, held Oct. 1 at the Charles Lind Brown Activity Center in Beaufort, will settle about $2.87 million in past-due county property taxes, Henderson told council members Monday.
All told, 1,043 properties were listed at the tax sale, compared to 1,103 properties in 2011 and 1,572 two years ago.
"Even with the economic situation we are in, we took 60 less properties to tax sale this year," Henderson told council.
Recent actions by the county to find and work with delinquent taxpayers is one reason fewer homes are going to tax sale, Henderson said.
Last year, more than 2,500 people took advantage of a one-time amnesty program that waived treasurer's office fees associated with late taxes. This year, the office hired LexisNexis to track down more than 2,000 property owners with incorrect addresses on file.
Delinquent taxpayers have a year to reclaim their property by paying off unpaid taxes and any other fees owed to the county. They must also pay interest to the winning bidder.
If a property is not reclaimed, the former owner receives whatever money remains from the sale after taxes and fees are deducted.
The 92 properties that did not receive bids at this year's auction will go to the Forfeited Land Commission, which also tries to sell the properties. Any revenue collected this way also will pay off uncollected debts.
Council also heard a presentation Monday by county staff about the upcoming property reassessment, which will take effect for the 2013 tax year. Early analyses suggest the overall value of property in the county has fallen to about $34 billion from about $48 billion in late 2007.
The impact on property owners is still not clear, as it's dependent on several complex factors, including the size of next year's budget. However, the county acknowledges some property owners whose homes are worth less now than five years ago could owe more in taxes next year.
In other action, County Council approved $477,000 in 2 percent state Accommodations Tax grants for 2012-13 to 34 local organizations that promote tourism. That figure includes $25,000 for Yemassee-based Lowcountry & Resort Island Tourism Commission, which was initially not awarded funds after an email error delayed its application.
The Accomodations Tax Advisory Committee opted to fund the commission, a longtime recipient, after Council gave the committee additional funds. Council approved the committee's recommendations unanimously.