By Beth David, Editor
Fairhaven Collector/Treasurer/ Finance Director Wendy Graves told the Selectboard at its 11/20/17 meeting that her office has nearly a 100% collection rate for property taxes.
That is not to say that everyone is 100% paid up. It just means that everyone is current. People who have gotten behind in tax payments and have set up a payment plan, are considered current and are not in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure by the town.
Selectboard chairperson Bob Espindola said he asked Ms. Graves to make a presentation because members of the public had been asking about the process, how many people owe, and who owes taxes to the town.
Ms. Graves said that for 2016, the collection rate was 99.5%, the most recent complete year available. Before that it was 99.9% for three years in a row. Ms. Graves started with the town in 2013.
Ms. Graves also informed the board that the town is required by law to run an ad in the local paper for those who are delinquent. She included a copy of this year’s ad that ran on June 14 in the Standard-Times.
She said the town cannot put a lien on the property without running an ad first.
The process requires that a demand (invoice) be sent in May; then a reminder letter is sent. A letter to the taxpayer is sent with the cut-off date for payment. If not paid in 14 days, the taxpayer is notified that his/ her name and address and the amount owed will be published in the paper. After the notice is run in the paper, a lien is put on the property and is then considered “Tax Title.” After that, the Treasurer has to wait at least six months to send to Land Court.
Then letters are sent to get the taxpayer to pay off the amount owed or set up a payment plan. If the taxpayer does not comply, then the property goes to land court to be acquired by the town.
“So it’s a very formal process, no exceptions,” said Mr. Espindola.
“I can’t pick and choose,” said Ms. Graves, all names must get published, no matter the amount, large or small that is owed to the town.
She said the town has done no foreclosures (taking of property) this year at all.
Last year (FY17) there were three foreclosures, 33 that went to Land Court, and 22 payoffs.
This year, so far (FY18) 32 have been sent to the attorney for warning letters, and 26 have paid off.
“So, as you can see, I’m very aggressive on tax title,” said Ms. Graves.
She said her philosophy is not to wait to long because “the hole gets bigger,” and it just makes it more difficult for people to get caught up.
She also does not like to act too quickly, because people often have legitimate reasons for not paying taxes, for instance when an elderly person dies and the heirs are handling the estate.
The top ten property owners who owe the most amount are: Atlas Tack, with five properties totalling: $619,094; Daniel P Ristuccia, Trustee with five properties totalling $185,101; Bernard Jacobvitz, Trustee, $149,006; Diane King and James Hallet, $128,920; Eric and Wayne, Stroud: $85,796; Richard Dussault, $73,237; Fairhaven American Legion Post 166, $60,924 Joseph and Elaina Grota, 52,840; Frederick Gautreau, $45,352; Terry Letton, $42,353.
Not of all the above properties are in danger of being taken for taxes. Some property owners have arranged payment plans with the town and, therefore, are considered current not in default.
Ristuccia and Jacobvitz are in Land Court; Stroud is in the process of being sent to Land Court; Post 166 had a hearing recently and the Post and town are waiting for the ruling. The others are on payment plans.
The town publishes the information once a year, usually in June.
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