Lt. Gov. Going After Delinquent Property Taxes

Monica Williams Carbon testifying at the Senate Wednesday. (Photo by Chaunte Herbert, Legislature of the Virgin Islands)

Monica Williams Carbon, chief of staff at the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, emphasized to members of the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday that her department generated a great deal of revenue for the government. Senators emphasized they wanted the department to generate more revenue.

Carbon and Committee Chairman Kurt Vialet agreed that a solution would be to fill all the vacant positions in the office.

The division generating the most revenue in the Lt. Governor’s Office was Real Property Taxes, which collected $65,713,180 in 2020. It predicts it will collect $58 million next year.

Vialet, along with Sen. Janelle Sarauw, said many properties have been improved in recent years, and if that division had more appraisers working and reappraising property, more money would be collected. Sarauw said, “The government is not collecting the money it needs.”

Carbon testified, “because of the retirement of staff and the removal of vacancies for a period of time, there are several divisions within LGO that have operated with less than adequate staff.” She added, “We are now in the process of filling the vacant positions.”

The Post Audit report listed two building appraiser positions open and four real property record officers also vacant.

Delinquent taxpayers were also a concern of senators. It was said at the hearing that as much as $100 million could be owed in back taxes. Carbon said a process that could end in the auction of property to pay the taxes was continuing for property owners who were several years delinquent. She said property owners are notified that a process has begun and soon their names will be published in a newspaper saying they owe taxes. She said the process seldom gets as far as the selling of the taxpayers’ property. She said that when the property owner realizes the government is serious about collecting the debt, the taxpayer pays the debt. She said her department has payment plans for those who have a large debt.

Banks, Insurance, and Financial Regulation is the second biggest revenue generator in the office. In 2020 it collected $21,221,467. Other divisions generating revenues in 2020 were the Recorder of Deeds, $12,181,647; Corporations and Trademarks $5,861,650; Financial Services, $5,702,046; and Passport/Notary, $831,975.

The Office of the Lieutenant Governor is requesting a General Fund appropriation of $7,980,339 for fiscal year 2022. According to the Legislature’s post-audit report, this represents an increase of $1,084,822 above the 2021 appropriation. Just over $5 million of this goes to personnel services with additional fringe benefits of $2.7 million. The office has 110 employees.

Senators attending the budget hearing were Marvin Blyden, Dwayne DeGraff, Novelle Francis, Kenneth Gittens, Donna Frett-Gregory, Javan James, Sarauw, Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Milton Potter, Javan James, and Alma Francis Heyliger.