Foreclosure looms for some Malheur County residents

By Pat Caldwell
The Enterprise
VALE – The clock is ticking for 16 property owners in Malheur County who have unpaid property taxes.
County Treasurer Jennifer Forsyth has announced intentions to foreclose on the properties and take title for the county.
The annual ritual usually prompts past-due taxpayers to settle up.
That happened with a couple listed as owing the most – George and Doleen Martinez of Caldwell.
They owed a total of $13,154 in unpaid back taxes on three properties in the Nyssa area — $10,128 for 865 Columbia Ave., $2,600 for 519 N. 4th St. and $424 for 879 Columbia Ave.
However, Martinez paid to keep all three properties out of foreclosure recently, the county treasurer’s office reported Monday. Martinez couldn’t be reached for comment.
A property at 1047 S.W. Main St, Vale, owes the second largest amount on the 2017 tax rolls. That property, owned by Date Pamperien through a contract with Bowers Real Estate LLC., carries an unpaid balance of $6,664.
The third highest back taxes owed are on a property at 585 Eason Court, Nyssa, at $3,801. The owners of this property are listed as William and Dema Burkhardt and Linda K. Eason.
The county records show Worth and Malinda Burdic rank fourth in unpaid taxes, owing $3,262 for a Nyssa property at 901 North 1st St.
Rounding out the top five properties owing back taxes to the county is Naomi Brown owing $3,230 for property at 355 N.W. 5th St. in Ontario.
The Malheur Enterprise tried to contact the top five property owners that owed the most back taxes. Letters were sent to two of the property owners but current contact information couldn’t be located or no one could be reached.
Eleven other properties remain on the 2017 foreclosure list with unpaid taxes totaling $14,000.
The foreclosure process is straightforward, Forsyth said.
“Once I publish the foreclosure list they have 30 days from the day of publishing to pay the oldest year and the five percent penalty,” said Forsyth.
If no payment is made, said Forsyth, the property goes into foreclosure and the owners have two years to redeem it.
If the taxes remain unpaid, the property is seized by the county and then sold at a public auction.
Most people eventually pay their back taxes, said Forsyth.
“On average I foreclose on about 35 to 40 accounts and by the time I go to sell them I am down to nine or 10,” said Forsyth.
A tax year begins July 1. Taxes are considered delinquent if not paid by May 15. Foreclosure proceedings start on a property three years from the date the taxes are listed as delinquent.
In 2014, the county took title of 10 properties for failure to pay back taxes and those have already been sold.
The last day for the redemption of county properties with back taxes from 2015 will be Oct. 5. After that date, the Malheur County Court will review the list and then the properties will be sold in the spring. There are 11 properties listed for 2015 back taxes. The largest amount owed from 2015 is $7,318 by Gene and June Ray and Barbara Szytow. The Rays are from Fairbanks Alaska.
According to the Oregon Revenue Department, in 2016 Malheur County had $1.6 million in uncollected property taxes, or 6.3 percent of taxes imposed.