COVINGTON - Newton County recently received notice from the federal government that taxes owed on properties owned by failed banks will not be paid until the properties are sold.
Tax Commissioner Barbara Dingler received a letter in March from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. stating that the county cannot foreclose on properties for which First Georgia Community Bank is the lender. The bank failed in December.
The county also cannot place liens, penalties or fines for failing to pay property taxes or charge recording or filing fees on the properties.
"Naturally, property taxes that can be shown to be valid and owing on the properties will be dealt with in the normal course of business, in consultation with the taxing authority, during the marketing, sale and conveyance of the properties by the receiver, but foreclosure of the properties would be in violation of federal law," the letter states.
According to county tax records, there are 20 properties that list Georgia First Community Bank as the lender, and 13 of those have delinquent taxes totaling $10,134.27. The developer is listed as J.C. Brinson Homes.
The county also received a similar notice Tuesday regarding properties owned by Omni National Bank, but Dingler said so far she hasn't found any record of property under that name.
Dingler said it's too early to tell the impact of not being able to collect taxes on such properties without knowing how many banks with holdings in Newton County have failed.
"We're just now seeing how the economy is affecting everyone. Collections are still good. Hopefully, this will turn around fast ... hopefully we're not going to see that much impact," Dingler said.
The Board of Commissioners is already struggling with how to cope with shrinking revenues, facing an $8 million shortfall in next year's budget, which is partially attributed to a decline in taxes.
But if there is a silver lining, perhaps it's that so far, the impact to Newton County has been slight compared with neighboring Rockdale County.
Rockdale County Tax Commissioner Dan Ray said there is a total of more than $91,000 due in taxes on properties now taken over by the FDIC.
"The federal government has the money to bail out corporations that reach around the world, other banking institutions that reach around the world, and yet they can't take a little bit of money to pay the taxes at the local government level to support sheriffs or police protection, the fire, jail, all the other county operations and especially the schools," Ray said. "We're all hurting, so how come we're having to bear the brunt of this, but everybody else is being bailed out?"
Staff Reporter Jay Jones contributed to this story.