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Hildale properties safe from auction after back taxes paid

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HILDALE, Utah – Properties in Hildale are safe from auction after thousands of dollars in back taxes have been paid just days before one of the town’s largest homes hits the auction block.

Washington County received close to $700,000 in the past four to six weeks, chipping away at the $1.1 million dollar debt owed on 38 Hildale properties. County auditor Kim Hafen said he hopes it’s a trend that continues.

“The tax sale is a hard thing,” Hafen said. “We’re not anxious to take away, to sell anybody’s property. The county is anxious that we have zero properties in the tax sale.”

The land is owned by the United Effort Plan, which is a state-run trust that owns millions of dollars in assets once controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City accountant Bruce Wisan oversees the trust. He said they’ve been urging residents to pay the taxes for quite some time.

“We’ve sent a notice out to every resident, every house in Hildale,” Wisan said. “We’ve notified people that they have to pay property taxes or there’s going to be a sale.”

Wisan said while the UEP owns the land, it’s always been the residents’ responsibility to pay the property tax.

“We believe that the church leaders of the FLDS church that follow Warren Jeffs have instructed their people to pay those taxes,” Wisan said.

But Hafen said it’s not just a concern for Hildale residents. Dozens of properties across the county are up for auction. He said the list is longer this year, which coincides with the downturn of the housing market.

“2008 is kind of the point where the economy went to pot,” Hafen said. “So that’s triggered more people not paying their taxes.”

Meanwhile, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is preparing to auction one of Hildale’s largest homes: a six-acre compound built by Jeffs that was seized as part of a court judgment involving former FLDS member Willie Jessop. Proceeds from the sale will go to paying off that judgment. The property is valued at more than $2 million.

The auction will take place Thursday, April 25 on the court steps in St. George.