John Thurston, the commissioner of state lands, returned $346,036 to Crawford County on Wednesday. Most of the funds have gone to county school districts.

The turnback, part of $18,244,997.60 statewide, was produced by property owners paying delinquent real estate taxes and from proceeds in excess of taxes due when the State Lands Office sells property.

“Our whole purpose in collecting delinquent real estate taxes, and in selling long-delinquent properties, is to get that funding to the counties where it is owed,” Thurston said. “When we sell properties that have been delinquent for many years, it gets them back onto the county tax rolls, producing income that helps a county with its roads, schools and emergency services.”

County Judge Dennis Gilstrap pointed out the turnback is not new funds.

“The funds were received in 2016 and disbursed in 2016,” he said.

Alma School District received $103,905.62; Cedarville schools, $11,384.36; Mountainburg schools, $33,289.52; Mulberry schools, $23,333.56; and Van Buren schools, $111,200.27.

The county road fund received $14,554.48 and county library fund $9,815.24.

The City of Van Buren received $4,404.83 for its general fund and $3,303.63 for its road fund; Alma $4,097.73 for its general fund, $528.74 for its pension fund and $1,982.76 for its road fund; Cedarville $34.43 for its road fund; Chester $106.71 for its general fund and $32.01 for its road fund; Dyer $813.43 for its general fund and $244.03 for its road fund; Kibler $6.83 for road fund and $22.76 for general fund; Mountainburg $83.85 for general fund, $19.73 for pension fund and $73.98 for road fund; and Mulberry $1,707.57 for general fund and $800.43 for road fund.

A public auction for the sale of tax delinquent land in Crawford County will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Doubletree Hilton, 700 Rogers Ave., Fort Smith.

Thurston said registration will begin at 9:30 p.m.

A catalog of tax delinquent lands, which contains current statutes governing the sales, auction dates, times, location and other pertinent information regarding parcels being offered can be found on the commissioner’s website at www.cosl.org.

“Bidding begins at the amount of taxes and fees that are due,” Thurston said. “Owners of delinquent parcels should remember that they have only 10 business days to redeem property if it sells at auction.”

Delinquent property owners may call the COSL office at (501) 324-9422 to request a petition to redeem, or they may look up the delinquent parcel on the COSL website and print it from there, Thurston said.

Since Thurston took office in 2011, the COSL has returned almost $119 million to counties across Arkansas. Turnback totals have declined slightly over the past few years, but more properties are being returned to the county tax rolls, Thurston pointed out.

In the past, bidding at auctions began at the assessed value of the land. A 2013 law changed the opening bid amount to the accrued delinquent taxes and related penalties. Other statutory changes reduced the redemption and litigation periods after a property is sold.

“More people are purchasing property now, since bidding begins lower and the waiting period is shorter,” Thurston said. “Overall, we are returning more properties to private ownership, which benefits the counties that can now collect annual taxes on those properties.”

Property is certified to the COSL office when it is two years delinquent. Owners then have two more years to redeem the property before it goes to public auction. Any parcels not sold at auction are placed on the COSL’s post-auction sales list, where the public can submit offers to purchase.