The number of parcels in Polk County with delinquent property taxes is down 2 percent this year to 3,299, but the value of those unpaid taxes has risen to nearly $6.8 million, up from $5.8 million last year.


In an annual event, the Polk County treasurer's office will auction off those unpaid taxes beginning at 7:30 a.m. June 16 at Hy-Vee Hall. Property owners who want to bring their taxes up to date and avoid the prospect of paying extra interest to redeem them after the sale can settle up with the treasurer's office no later than 5 p.m. Friday.


Polk County Treasurer Mary Maloney said a drop in the number of parcels should be good news for her workers, who make quick work of auctioning off the tax certificates, waiting only to hear the words "pass" or "sold" before moving on to the next sale.


An increase in delinquent commercial taxes probably is driving the rise in the dollar amount of unpaid taxes, Maloney said.


A review of delinquent taxes offered for sale this year appears to bear that out. Foods Inc., which owns and operates the Dahl's grocery stores, owes $410,586, including interest, on stores in Des Moines, Ankeny and Clive, according to property records. The majority of that amount resulted from one-time missed payments that were due March 31, the deadline to pay property taxes. One of the properties is owned by a limited liability company on a lease-back arrangement with Dahl's, and the company plans to close an Ankeny store that carries a delinquent tax bill.


A company spokesman could not be reached for comment.


Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates Inc. owes $185,594, including interest, on 12 development properties.


The company could not be reached for comment.


Dahl's and Sherman appear to carry the heftiest price tags, but they do not stand alone among owners of commercial property who are not up to date on their taxes.


When the taxes are sold at auction, buyers collect interest of 2 percent a month until the taxes are redeemed, typically by the property owners. If they are not claimed in two years, the property tax investors can begin the process of acquiring the properties.