KILLEEN, Texas (Aug. 2, 2021) – City Auditor Matthew Grady performed an independent examination of Code Enforcement lien collections. He has published his findings for public review.
Overall, the City Auditor found slow, but steady progress in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the lien collection process but noted some challenges.
The audit showed that the number of outstanding liens in the city as of Dec. 8, 2020, was about 3,000 with a collective value of roughly $1 million. Additionally, the City has spent over $300,000 in the past decade maintaining dozens of lien-stricken, tax-delinquent abandoned properties.
The audit also found that the outstanding liens reflect a spectrum of cases that include aged-out cases dating back to the early 1990s, one-time offenders with minor violations, and serial offenders, who have amassed dozens of liens, on multiple properties, in the thousands of dollars from recurring code violations.
While there are a number of code violations listed under Chapters 8 and 18 of the City’s Code of Ordinances, the overwhelmingly majority on the list of open liens obtained for this audit (90%), included Section 18-21: High Weeds, Grass, or Brush.
The City Auditor is recommending the Executive Director of Development Services analyzes open Code Enforcement liens, evaluates the collection process, and looks into converting abandoned properties with outstanding liens to more beneficial use.
The audit report referenced different Texas cities with ideas at addressing the multiple violators. The City Auditor recommends a multi-pronged approach that includes implementing a policy for writing off uncollectable liens, strengthening policy and legislation to deter would-be serial offenders, and implementing a targeted lien amnesty program to encourage low-level offenders to bring themselves into compliance.
While the City has not conducted a formal analysis of the collectability of its outstanding liens, the City’s Lien Specialist estimates the uncollectable debt at about 40% of the total outstanding debt.
The report showed that the total amounts owed by property owners, not including interest on past due balances, ranged from a low of $50 to a high of $19,700.
The scope of the audit focused on lien collection activities from FY 2018 through June 30, 2021, but also included a review of historical data related to open liens.
The entire Code Enforcement Lien Collections Audit is available at killeentexas.gov/auditor.