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Shaftsbury, Vermont 05262

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Shaftsbury Delinquent Tax Collector Updates Select Board on Progress

Posted: May 12, 2024


SHAFTSBURY - Holly Bahan, delinquent tax collector, gave the Select Board an update on her collections of delinquent property taxes and asked for permission to move ahead toward tax sales, if necessary.

Bahan told the Board at its Monday meeting that she started with about $352,600 owed and has reduced it down to $103,100.

"When I started I sent an agreement out to everybody," she said.

She has many people with longstanding debt who are now starting to pay. "I went from eight pages of people down to three.

"There are a couple on the pages [where] I don't know how we'll ever get the money," she said.

Board member Tony Krulikowski asked what's the story of why people haven't paid.

People have fallen on hard times or have medical issues. "I have a couple who are in probate court because of deaths," Bahan said.

There are just a handful of people that she wanted to talk about who have not responded. "I have a couple that have reached out and said ‘yes, yes, we're going to start' - and still nothing," she said.

With others, there has been no response at all. "I don't think I should be begging people," she said. "I ask them just let me know the situation, and I'm not getting any response."

She added, "I'm trying to give grace to my neighbors and friends in this community I've lived in all my life, but at the same time I have about seven that I think they're going to have to go to tax sale. I guess I'd have to ask permission to do that."

Bahan said she would be talking to local attorney Kevin O'Toole, who helps the delinquent tax collectors in numerous Vermont communities conduct tax sales, and sending out another letter on Friday.

"Within 10 days, you need to get hold of me, make a quarter of a payment of this whole bill in a payment arrangement or it's going to have to go to legal," she said of the contents of the letter.

Board members observed that there have been tax sales almost every year in Shaftsbury. "It's not an unusual thing to have to do," said Board Chair Naomi Miller.

"And it often kind of sparks the payment to them because it is so drastic," said Board Vice Chair Martha Cornwell. "And I know you are working to treat people with dignity... It's a hard job."

The board gave Bahan permission to talk to the attorney and send out the letter and asked her to then give a report to Administrator Paula Iken, who would then inform the Select Board.

LEGISLATIVE IMPACT
Mentioned on Monday, a wrinkle in town delinquent tax collections this year in Vermont is House Bill 629. It is advancing steadily through the state Legislature. It focuses on easing tax abatements and tax sale policies for delinquent property owners, and has been amended since it was introduced on Jan. 4.

"What I had heard is it would be a much higher threshold before you could do a tax sale," Bahan said at the Select Board meeting.

Vermont Legal Aid supports the bill. In a Jan. 23 press release it states, "VLA is committed to working with the legislature and other stakeholders to improve the tax sale system via House Bill 629, an act relating to changes to property tax abatement and tax sales. [This is to] ensure appropriate notice and procedural guardrails that drive solutions to get property taxes paid without older, disabled, and other vulnerable low-income Vermonters losing their homes. These include a standardized and workable tax abatement process, reasonable repayment plans, and minimum required tax-debt thresholds prior to tax sale."

In written testimony in January, officials with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns had strong reservations about the bill.

"Tax sales are the most common way a town can compel a property owner to pay their tax bill. Amending the system - especially by extending the redemption period, putting new requirements on capacity-strapped small towns, and making tax sales less attractive to the already small investor pool - makes us very nervous," wrote Susan Senning, a staff attorney with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns' Municipal Assistance Center, in Jan. 24 testimony to the Legislature. "H. 629 as drafted would likely reduce or eliminate the viability of tax sales."

Compliments of: The Bennington Banner
Posted/Author: Mark Rondeau

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