8 Investigates: The tax struggle in Craighead County

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - There's a problem in Craighead County and it's costing schools, law enforcement, and other parts of the county's infrastructure, millions of dollars.

According to Craighead County Tax Collector Marsha Phillips, there is over $2 million not collected in personal property taxes, about 11-12 percent of the personal property tax owed to the county.

"I was just really shocked," said Phillips. "Seventeen pages of delinquent real estate and personal."

Every October, the collector's office releases the names of those delinquent on their personal property or real estate taxes. Region 8 News went through that list and found some shocking numbers and names.

At the top of the delinquent personal property tax list was AirSouth Incorporated which advertises itself as "Plane Life. Luxury Living."

According to the collector's office, it owes $76,595.59 in delinquent personal property taxes. Those taxes have been delinquent since 2011.

Also topping the list were other businesses like Zaxby's of Jonesboro. The collector reports them owing more than $12,000 since 2008.

Shorty Small's in Jonesboro is listed as being delinquent since 2009 and owing $9,665.

Region 8 News attempted to contact these businesses.

Two phone calls to AirSouth went unreturned, the owner of Zaxby's declined to comment, and the number listed on the Shorty Small's corporate website was disconnected.

Also on the list were some interesting names like Kristi Malzahn, wife of former Arkansas State Head Football coach and current Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. When the Malzahns left to go to Auburn they didn't just leave Arkansas State without a coach, the tax collector's list reports Mrs. Malzahn left $689.57 unpaid personal property taxes.

The Second Judicial Drug Task Force also owes Craighead County $230.46 in personal property tax that is delinquent as of 2012.

Phillips said that getting that money is not an easy process, especially when it comes to businesses and people who have moved off.

"There's really nothing to attach a business to," said Phillips. "Unless they use cars then there is nothing to attach them to."

Phillips said it's not uncommon for someone to leave town with money owed.

As for Malzahn, Phillips said "unless they move back here and she is going to assess and get tags under her name, then it would show up."

Right now, Craighead County sends out letters and turns over delinquency lists to the media as a means of getting money they are owed.

When asked about the possibility of stepping up enforcement for collecting, Phillips said those are changes that need to come from higher up.

"That is something that needs to be addressed by the legislature," she said.

Until some form of help comes from lawmakers on keeping track of those that owe personal property taxes, Phillips said her focus is to make sure her office is run well and people have the help they need.

Phillips added that personal property and real estate taxes are payable online or in person at the Tax Collector's office.

She also said they are willing to work with anyone who owes money to help them get things paid off.

To see the complete list of personal property tax delinquencies as of March 12, click here.

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