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It did not set the best example.
Three Salt Lake County elected officials failed to pay their 2014 property taxes on time, even though the county is in charge of collecting such taxes for local governments and oversees punishment for late payments.
Two say they are embarrassed. Mayor Ben McAdams says he was late on $989 because a notice was sent to the wrong address. County Council Chairman Michael Jensen was late on $20 on a thin slice of land, saying he simply forgot to pay it.
But Councilman Sam Granato is unapologetic for the $21,183 he did not pay on a delicatessen he owns. He says it was intentional, and he used the resulting penalties and interest as an affordable loan to buy $20,000 worth of deli meats for his food-importing business.
The excuses and explanations by the trio mirror actions by many businesses and individuals whose combined unpaid 2014 property taxes amounted to $85.8 million in Salt Lake, Utah, Davis and Weber counties.
Other delinquents involve such prominent entities as the Jordan Valley hospital (late on $542,420), and an Embassy Suites hotel that West Valley City has portrayed as a key part of redevelopment there (late on $268,730). Even Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward appeared on the list, but apparently because of someone else's mistake.
Taxes are due every year Nov. 30. Those who are late must pay a 1 percent penalty. If the tax is not paid by Jan. 31, the penalty increases to 2.5 percent and interest is assessed (the 2013 rate was 7 percent, but the 2014 rate is yet to be set). If taxes are delinquent five years running, counties auction off the property to collect the unpaid tax.
Easy ''loans'' • Granato is an example of some who use the rules to convert delayed tax payments into easy-to-obtain, affordable loans.
Instead of paying on time the $21,183 he owed on one of his delis, "I opted to spend over $20,000 on salami and prosciutto," Granato said. He researched what the penalty and interest would be, and found them "not significant."
"I'd rather get the inventory, protect the payroll and get the product for the customer," Granato said.
"I am more of a businessman than a politician," he added. "I have nothing to hide from. I know what I'm doing," and noted it is within the law.
The delinquency list is always full of land developers who do the same thing.
Among those on the list again this year is prominent developer Terry Diehl. His sometimes-controversial Cottonwood Estates Development, also known as Tavaci, at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, was late on $240,729 in 2014 taxes. That was the seventh highest among Wasatch Front tax delinquents.
"Instead of capping bank loans or lines of credit, it was just as cheap to use this [not paying taxes on time] as a loan," he said in a Tribune interview two years ago about taxes on the same property. "We fully intend on paying it in full" before it goes to a tax sale.
Some other developers high on the delinquency list include: KRK Wolf Creek for $192,940 in late tax for land in Weber County; Valley Properties for $149,808 for a business development in Pleasant Grove; and Geneva Holdings, $140,172 for Utah County property.
Check is in the mail • McAdams is among those who say his tax payment was delayed because of problems with where the notice was sent, but he accepts responsibility for that himself.
He had remodeled a home and subdivided the property there, he said. So two vacant land parcels, totaling about a half acre, were separated from the land where the house stood.
When he sold the house, "we didn't realize the adjacent parcels were taxed separately," and that the tax had not been handled in the closing on the home sale, he said. "The notice went to the other address [instead of his new home], so we didn't get the tax notice until a month later." He said the taxes have since been paid.
The largest delinquent on this year's list also said the mail was a reason it was late, but also takes responsibility. Jordan Valley Medical Center in West Jordan was late on $542,420.
"The tax assessment was mailed to our corporate offices in Nashville, Tenn., and it was rerouted from Nashville to us," said Jodi DeJong, marketing director for the hospital.
She said the hospital planned to pay soon.
Some other hospitals and medical centers also appeared high on the delinquency list.
They included the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Utah in Sandy (late on $161,208), and a large medical office owned by Health Care Property next to the Jordan Valley Medical Center's West Valley City campus (formerly Pioneer Valley Hospital) for $107,923.
Protests • A 2-year-old Embassy Suites hotel deemed a cornerstone for redevelopment efforts to create a downtown for West Valley City missed the deadline for $268,731 in 2014 taxes (fifth highest on the delinquent list) because it has appealed those taxes as being too high.
That was different than the explanation given by city officials last year, when Embassy Suites, owned by the Redevelopment Agency of West Valley City and leased to the hotel owners, was late on $263,041.
At that time, West Valley City spokesman Sam Johnson said contracts required the hotel to pay the property tax, but the notice had been sent to the city because it holds title to the land.
The city turned over the bill to the hotel, he said at the time, adding, "we fully expect them to get current with their tax payment and they have given their assurance they would."
The hotel owners did not. Instead, Johnson said, the hotel and the city Redevelopment Agency, believing the appraisal was too high, have appealed tax bills for 2013 and 2014 a total topping $530,000.
Nicole Cottle, assistant West Valley City manager, said that in 2013, the hotel was billed for a full year's worth of taxes even though it operated only part of the year after completion.
She also said property owned by redevelopment agencies usually is assessed at lower levels.
Both issues are raised on appeal and payment will be withheld "until we get that protest process completed," Cottle said. "It takes a good deal of time to work through that process. ... We want to make sure we get that all accurate."
An appeal of county appraisals also led Memorial Estates to withhold payment initially on $400,875 in taxes on its properties, including Deseret Memorial Mortuary, Redwood Memorial Mortuary and Cemetery, Holladay Memorial Cemetery and corporate offices.
"We appealed the appraisals because we don't agree with them, and think they are too high. We are waiting for a hearing date," said Jeffrey Stevens, general counsel to Memorial Estates. The company said it has since paid $220,000 of the tax and plans to pay the rest soon to avoid interest.
Forgetting • Jensen, the County Council chairman, offers an excuse for missing the tax deadline that likely was shared by many: He simply forgot. In his case, that involves a paltry $20. But his story also shows why most people don't forget: Their mortgage companies usually take care of tax payments for them.
Jensen explains that he bought a tenth of an acre behind his house about a week after he purchased his home.
"My next-door neighbor owned it," he said. "So it's never been recorded as part of my lot."
Jensen adds that his mortgage company pays the taxes on most of his property, but not on that small strip.
Jensen said he received that tax notice and put it in a pile of bills to be paid, but it was overlooked as the family went on vacation. "I am embarrassed," he said, "but we paid it" after the deadline.
Well-known delinquents • The delinquency lists contain other recognizable names.
Hayward, the Utah Jazz star, was there, listed as being late on $6,866 in taxes on a new home that he and his wife bought about two months ago.
"But the escrow company made a clerical mistake and didn't pay it on time," said Hayward's agent, Mark Bartelstein. "It has since been taken care of."
At the closing of a house sale, the buyer and seller usually divide the year's estimated property tax based on how long they each will own it and the amount is placed in escrow.
The escrow company is supposed to then pay the property tax, but Bartelstein said that didn't happen on time.
Another big name on the list is Oracle, the nation's second-largest computer software maker by revenue after Microsoft. Its $502,062 in late taxes for a building in South Jordan ranks No. 2 on the delinquency list.
Mountain States Steel was listed as late on $246,249 in taxes for property in Vineyard in Utah County.
The Riverside County Club in Provo was late on $69,158 in taxes.
University Gateway apartments in Orem missed the deadline for $51,493 in taxes.
Some notable hotels besides the West Valley City Embassy Suites were also on the delinquency list.
They included the Comfort Inn Salt Lake City Airport, late on $66,779; the Courtyard by Marriott in Provo, tardy on $61,899; the SpringHill Suites in Provo, for $53,246; and a Knight's Inn in Provo, $50,050.
Top 2014 Wasatch Front property tax delinquents
1. Jordan Valley Medical Center • $542,420.
2. Oracle America (South Jordan building) • $502,062.
3. Majestic-SLC Partners (industrial buildings) • $494,459.
4. Memorial Mortuaries & Cemeteries • $400,875.
5. Embassy Suites (West Valley City hotel) • $268,731.
6. Mountain States Steel (Utah County property) • $246,249
7. Cottonwood Estates Development • $240,729.
8. TEM Properties (for SupraNatruals building) • $232,799.
9. Ventura Utah (South Jordan office building) • $193,626.
10. KRK Wolf Creek (Weber County development) • $192,940.
Source: Salt Lake Tribune analysis of tax delinquency lists in Salt Lake, Utah, Davis and Weber counties.