Onondaga County's aggressive plan to go after back taxes is starting to pay off. The county is going after the biggest tax cheats with lawsuits and property, and that's convinced some of the smaller properties that were well behind on tax bills to pay up.
County Executive Ryan McMahon says going public with fights against Shoppingtown and other properties that owe a million dollars or more had a trickle down impact.
“I think it probably guilted them into it. Some of these folks that paid up are operating businesses that frankly should have probably paid a while ago. These are properties that owe 2-3 years’ worth of taxes. This isn’t like we’re chasing down some little, small business after missing a quarterly payment.”
The County has collected more than $1.4 million in back taxes from several commercial properties. McMahon also announced today he's stepping up efforts against three major delinquent locations. He's suing Shoppingtown, Great Northern Mall and DMI Acquisitions for tens of thousands in unpaid sewer bills.
“Why should these folks continue to be able to use the public infrastructure when they’re not paying their bills. It costs us a lot of money to run these utilities. We have made multi-million dollar investments in our wastewater treatment facilities to keep the system going. They flush a lot of toilets at Shoppingtown Mall on movie night.”
On yet another front, the county is going to court to get the rents being paid to Great Northern and Shoppingtown, in lieu of unpaid taxes.
Two properties remain top targets. McMahon says the DMI-owned, former power plant in Geddes is accused of selling off scrap metal, in defiance of a court order. Meanwhile, the county plans to move forward with seizing Shoppingtown in October, pending the outcome of lawsuits trying to block it.
He says one thing common to all of these properties with major back tax bills - and apparently little desire to pay them - is that they are owned by people and entities outside the region, with no stake in the local community