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Candidate admits financial woes

Dan Tipton said he is proud he has met all his financial obligations during both good financial times and bad. But Tipton said he doesn't always have the cash to pay his tax bill on time.

Tipton, a Democratic candidate for County Commission, failed to pay the 1995 taxes on his New Port Richey home and the 1994 and 1995 taxes on a lot he owns in Shady Hill _ until last week.

Tipton owns a home valued at $257,397. Pasco tax records show he failed to pay his $6,088 tax bill on time. When he did pay it July 19, interest had driven the amount to $6,922.

On the $7,046 Shady Hills lot, Tipton owed $184 in 1995 taxes and $149 in 1994 taxes, which he paid July 22.

Tipton, who owns a flooring and home-renovation business, said a stale economy has hurt his business in the past five years, leaving him short of cash.

"I managed to pay my bills over the last several years," Tipton said Friday. "We did everything to pay up. We didn't run from our problems or obligations. I didn't file bankruptcy."

He said his company's total sales dropped from $600,000 to $700,000 in the late 1980s to $150,000 to $200,000 today.

Tipton said he had hoped to pay his 1995 taxes by the April 1 deadline. But he said some money he had hoped would come in failed to materialize.

"I've had other times that I've been behind," Tipton said. "I'm not going to lie about it."

Tipton could have gone several years without paying the taxes before he would have lost the property.

When a tax bill is late, the county holds an auction. At that auction, bidders can pay the tax obligation, receiving a tax certificate in exchange. In order to keep the property, the delinquent taxpayer must eventually pay the certificate holder the back taxes, plus interest, to keep the property.

A foreclosure, however, usually can't take place for three years or more.

Tipton said business has been better lately. And he said he will be selling his home to find a place with a smaller tax bill.

"I hope people understand," Tipton said. "It isn't that I didn't want to pay the taxes. I just didn't have the money in pocket. I never run away from my obligations."

Tipton, who lost the Democratic primary to Commissioner Hap Clark in 1992, faces Clark again in the Sept. 3 primary.