Last updated: April 22. 2014 9:40AM - 4648 Views
By - swillets@civitasmedia.com



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LUMBERTON — A Lumberton city councilman owes hundreds of dollars in back taxes on bills that have not been paid since 2008.


The city of Lumberton published its yearly list of delinquent taxpayers in The Robesonian on Sunday, and included on the list were Councilman John “Big Wayne” Robinson and Rep. Charles Graham. Depending on the amount owed and whether the property owner has been delinquent in years past, the property could be foreclosed and sold.


Robinson, who represents Precinct 2, declined to comment for this story. Graham told a reporter this morning that he has since paid his taxes.


According to the list, Robinson owes $562.90 for 2013, including $93.97 for property on Edgewood Street, where the councilman lives. According to the Robeson County Tax Administration’s database, bills for that parcel — ranging from about $70 to $150 each year — have not been paid since 2008.


The list also names Robinson as the property owner for a parcel on Meadow Road, for which $468.93 is owed. The county’s database lists the property as Robinson Motor Sales and also includes other property owners.


Wayne Robinson is listed as one of the property owners for another parcel on the list that also matches the Edgewood Street address, according to the county’s database. For that property, $291.61 is owed.


Robinson was first elected in 2011 to the unexpired term of Wyatt Johnson, who resigned from the council. He was re-elected during the November municipal election.


City Council members each earn a yearly salary of $7,403.14, according to city Finance Director Alisha Thompson. City Manager Wayne Horne said the city does have the option of withholding wages to cover tax debt.


According to the tax listing, Graham owed $4,727.47 on two Lumberton properties, one located on Fayetteville Road and the other on Roberts Avenue, both of which are owned by his business, Companion Home Care Unimed.


Taxes on both properties were paid after the deadline for being included in the publication listing taxes owed, he said.


“My taxes are now all paid in full,” Graham said. “It was an oversight on my part.”


Graham, a Democrat, has represented District 47 since 2011 and is uncontested in his bid for re-election.


Linda Oxendine, director of the department of Public Services, said the city will “exhaust all means” collecting the money owed before beginning foreclosure.


“In a lot of cases, folks just didn’t know it wasn’t paid or overlooked it or they moved into the area and didn’t know they had county taxes and city taxes,” Oxendine said.


The city will give residents about a month to catch up before selecting 10 random property owners and beginning the process of foreclosure.


Once those accounts have been settled, the city will pick another 10.


“We look at those that owe us the most year’s taxes … or maybe they owe one year and have a big balance,” Oxendine said.


Oxendine said the city has recently begun sending the list of tax liens to an outside collection agency and putting the debt on credit reports.


The county will also soon be publishing its list of property owners who owe taxes. County Manager Ricky Harris said Monday that the commissioners have not yet approved the list for publication and that no date has been set for publication.


The county has historically published the tax list in The Robesonian, but did not do so in 2013, when the list was published in the Robeson Journal. The Robeson Journal claims a circulation of about 2,000, while The Robesonian’s is more than five times higher.


The county has said the decision was made to save money; the decision came shortly after The Robesonian published several articles concerning the commissioners’ pay and benefits, among the highest in the state, and also published a series of editorials critical of the commissioners for their pay, benefits and discretionary spending.

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