The possibility of losing property inspired people to pay back taxes, and that has helped the financial picture of Newton schools. At a school board meeting early this week, school officials said an increase in property tax revenue - mostly from paid delinquent taxes - would help the district end the year in good financial condition.
School officials had believed they might have to make more cuts this year as they prepare the budget for next year, but the extra tax money has alleviated that concern. That does not mean the district has a lot of money now, but it means their financial picture is not as bleak as it was a few months ago. As a result some of the cuts talked about likely will not have to be made.
County Treasurer Becky Fields said she sent $234,000 to the district in June from delinquent taxes, compared to $128,000 at the same time last year. She said the increase may be due to a tax sale and that made people pay their back taxes. It could also be the economy is improving some and people are better able to pay taxes.
Fields said the largest part of delinquent payments came between March and June of this year. Overall, the school district has received $9.1 million in property tax revenues for the current tax year, compared to $8 million the year before.
The city of Newton, and Harvey County, both had small increases in delinquent tax collections as well, but not enough to make a significant difference in their overall financial condition.
Lunda Asmani, Newton's director of finance, said the city has normally not had a high level of delinquent taxes, the increase in the amount received has been small.
"It looks like we had about a one-percent increase," Asmani said. The city is facing the possibility of a large tax increase this year, and this would not really impact that, he added.
The same is true at the county level. County administrator John Waltner said a tax sale does spur some payments. "We are getting some of that, and it does help."
There has also been an increase in sales tax revenue around the county. Over the past 12 months, the county has had a 4.7 percent increase in sales tax revenue.
A slight increase has also been seen in property valuations, which increases the amount received in property taxes by local government agencies.
Whether this means the economy is getting stronger remains to be seen.
Waltner said he is cautious, but optimistic about signs the economy is getting better.
"We are seeing some signs that the economy is getting stabilized, or at least better than it was."
Even as those signs are there, there are still people with property taxes that have not been paid. Fields said there will likely be another tax sale in August or later this year. There are 27 residences in the Newton USD 373 attendance area that could be up for sale, as well as several more properties. Many of the properties are vacant lots.