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Disabled veteran to be evicted over late $236 property tax bill

Property Tax Bill (Daniel X. O'Neil/Flickr)
July 17, 2019

A disabled Air Force veteran is slated to be evicted from his home after it was auctioned off over a $236 late tax bill.

Jim Boerner, 49, bought his Arizona home outright two years ago, but due to confusion involving a low-income tax program that led to an overdue unpaid tax bill, the city of Mesa, Ariz. auctioned his home away without his knowledge, according to the Arizona Republic on Friday.

He was visited recently by someone claiming to have purchased his home at auction for $4,400.

“I said, ‘What are you talking about? … This has got to be wrong.’ Had I known I was in peril of losing my home, I would have paid it [the tax bill] in full,” Boerner explained.

While stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in 1991, he was injured in a training exercise and suffered spinal and brain injuries. Unable to work, he’s now on a fixed income and turned to a county program that provides property tax exemptions for low-income residents with disabilities.

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He applied and was accepted — to his knowledge. He recalls filing the paperwork for the program in 2017 and receiving a letter approving his application, but says he misplaced the letter.

In 2018, a sheriff’s deputy showed up at Boerner’s house to inform him that his taxes were late, and his mobile home could go to auction. In a panic, he refiled another application for the exemption and again got a letter saying he was approved. He called to confirm with the sheriff’s office who told him he wasn’t in jeopardy of losing his home.

Last month, it happened again. Another sheriff’s deputy showed up at Boerner’s door and told him he was “perilously close” to losing his home due to unpaid taxes.

Boerner said that he called on June 13 to pay the taxes and “two different employees told him he still had time to pay as he was weeks away from any deadlines.” They said he wasn’t in danger of an auction.

Boerner was told he owed $641, but only $405 was past due, so he paid that amount, thinking he had more time to come up with the remaining $236.

But the employee was incorrect. The notes from the Sheriff’s Office indicate that Boerner’s home was going to auction on June 30 and that’s just what happened.

Boerner’s house sold at auction for $4,400.

He had no idea his home was sold until a man showed up at his door asking Boerner how long it would take him to get out.

While buyer Lester Payne was still at the house, Boerner contacted the county and was told that his home had been auctioned off for not paying his taxes.

It was then that Payne said he would sell Boerner back his house, for $30,000.

“I was begging him to rethink,” Boerner said.

Text messages show that Payne said he would take $26,000 and then doubled the amount to $52,000 and told Boerner that if he didn’t pay the amount, he would have his home removed in the night.

Eventually, Payne refused to sell altogether, insisting he would keep the home for his grandmother.

On the verge of homelessness, Boerner is in a battle to save the place he calls home.

Officials from the program and the county are working diligently with Boerner to save his home, but there may be no way to reverse his predicament.

In tears, Boerner said, “It’s difficult. It’s just difficult. I love my home. I love my neighbors. … This was my nest egg, you know. That’s why I paid cash for it. This is where I was going to retire. And now I don’t have that assurance anymore.”

Boerner has been trying to figure out how this happened.

What he has discovered so far is, there are three different agencies that handle taxes.

“The Maricopa County Assessor’s Office handles tax exemptions. The Maricopa County Treasurer’s Office collects tax payments and issues delinquency notices. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office serves delinquent taxpayers with auction notices and conducts the sales,” AZ Central explained.

Boerner said, “I’ve been getting the brick wall everywhere I turn.”

Treasurer Royce Flora said, “If we can’t figure out how to get through the maze, how is he supposed to?”

Complicating the issue even more, mobile homes like Boerner’s can be auctioned as soon as a tax bill is late, unlike single-family homes that must wait five years before auction.

Flora said, “A home is a home, and they should be treated the same.”

Here is how to contact Arizona State Legislature:

Contact Rep. Bob Thorpe at 602-926-5219 or https://www.azleg.gov/emailazleg/?legislatorId=1872.

Contact Rep. Anthony Kern at 602-926-3102 or https://www.azleg.gov/emailazleg/?legislatorId=1868.

In Maricopa County, contact Assessor Paul Petersen at 602-506-3406, Sheriff Paul Penzone at 602-876-1000, or Treasurer Royce Flora at 602-506-8511.

To contact Boerner, you can do reach out to his attorney, Curtis Ensign, at [email protected] or 602-266-3300. All contact information is provided thanks to the Arizona Republic.