“When the county gives assistance, it can be in the form of attorney service through our Public Defenders Office, private court appointed attorneys or Human Services Assistance,” said Tim McFarland, Administrative Assistant to the Minnehaha County Commission. “People may need assistance with hospital, dental, rent, food or transportation issues. When the county provides assistance in a number of different ways by law, a lien is automatically created for the value of that service.”
McFarland said when a lean is created against a person; it is for property and property they may own in the future. People need to know when they go to sell or buy property and they have a lien against them that lien won’t go away unless it is paid off or forgiven.
“Our revenue sources are extremely limited and extremely controlled by the state,” said McFarland. “The county doesn’t receive one penny in sales tax revenue. Our revenue is tied to property taxes and is tightly controlled with property tax limitations and we receive fees for services which are also tightly controlled by the state.”
“It doesn’t relieve us of very expensive responsibilities in the form of law enforcement, criminal defense and welfare assistance” said McFarland. “Those are all big dollar items and the county struggles to meet those obligations and that’s what we are in the business to do.”
McFarland said the county is really good at making sweaters out of lint balls; meaning they are very good at stretching a dollar. We have to do it, and we have become good at it.
“The one nice thing about a lien is, once it hits the books, it never goes up because of interest and always stays the same as the original amount,” said McFarland. A person can pay what they can afford for as long as it may take. There are people with liens on the thousands of dollars who pay five to ten dollars a month.”
McFarland said that when someone wants to buy that first house, the first thing a title checks is for a lien against the buyer. If there is a lien against the buyer it becomes an encumbrance and needs to be taken care of before closing. People need to remember, liens never go away unless they are discharged or paid.