Upshur County Sheriff's Office Chief Tax Deputy Heather Sparks at Thursday's commission meeting.

2019 tax year land sale postponed due to COVID-19 exposure; properties will be sold at 2020 land sale if not redeemed

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Sheriff’s Tax Office had to postpone their land sale for tax year 2019 due to a COVID-19 exposure.

Chief Tax Deputy Heather Sparks presented the final disposition list for tax year 2019 during Thursday’s Dec. 17 Upshur County Commission meeting.

“In June we had approximately 1,568 delinquent properties which totaled about $521,000,” Sparks said. “After the notices were published, we started researching, and my tax deputies verify any splits in ownership. We check addresses to make sure we have the correct one – we really do research every aspect of the property to ensure that the correct taxpayers will be notified.”

After the deputies have thoroughly researched the properties, they send a certified letter.

“We sent out approximately 950 certified letters in October and our land sale that was scheduled for Tuesday Nov. 17 had to be canceled because of an exposure to COVID-19,” Sparks said. “We could not reschedule it as per code, so it actually has to be canceled.”

Before the date of the canceled land sale, the tax office had 1,323 properties worth approximately $500,000 that were redeemed, they suspended 245 properties which totaled about $20,952. Thirty-six of the properties would have been suspended no matter what because they were gas royalties. In addition, 23 of the properties were suspended because they were previously sold to the state and 186 properties were suspended because the land sale was canceled.

“The properties that were suspended have to be redeemed through the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office,” Sparks said. “The phone number for that is 1-888-509-6568. When taxpayers call the state, they will only have to pay the 2019 taxes that are outstanding right now, but the auditor will let them know exactly the procedure to do this and the exact amount to be paid.”

If there are any 2019 properties not redeemed before the next land sale, they will be sold along with the 2020 properties.

“The cancellation of our land sale has been just a really stressful time,” Sparks said. “We work really closely with the State Auditor’s Office to make sure that we’re proceeding accordingly. We do encourage any taxpayer who has [outstanding] 2019 taxes to give us a call if they have any questions. The tax office phone number is 304-472-1180, but they will also have to call the State Auditor’s Office, and that number again is 1-888-509-6568.”

Sparks explained that most properties are redeemed prior to the land sale, and even if a property is bought at the sale, the original taxpayer has 18 months to redeem their property.

“If they purchase a property, they have to realize the actual taxpayers have 18 months to redeem their property, so if a property is sold at a land sale, and it’s sold to an individual, that individual doesn’t technically become the owner for 18 months,” Sparks said. “Most of the time most properties are redeemed, even after they’re sold. There are some that actually end up being deeded to new people, but it’s not like the day after the land sale, the taxpayers have to move out of their house.”

Sparks also thanked her tax deputies for all their work and Sheriff Dave Coffman.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my tax deputies as I always do for their dedication and their hard work. These ladies truly go above and beyond to make the tax office run smoothly and they’re a pleasure to work with and I could not do my job without them,” Sparks said. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sheriff David Coffman for his eight years of service and dedication. It’s been an honor to work with the Sheriff’s Department and we wish him nothing but many years of good, wonderful health.”

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