Little Compton Budget Committee and Tax Collector finally meet
The Little Compton Budget Committee met with Treasurer/Tax Collector Mary Jane Harrington on January 24, 2017. Ms. Harrington’s gave several explanations for the years of tax delinquencies:
1. Tangibles: the tax assessor’s office does not have a good procedure to allow for collection of tangible taxes, so does not try to collect them.
2. Motor Vehicles: the process…the tax collector places a block on the taxpayers account when delinquent taxes are owed, preventing the taxpayer from registering vehicles with the State of RI until such time as all motor vehicle taxes are paid in full.
3. Property Taxes: she stated that she mails two letters per year for the collection of Property Taxes. She stated that $348,000 had been collected since a December letter was mailed out …her answer to the question from the Chair of the Budget Committee as to “how much have you collected in delinquent taxes since the letter was sent on December 29, 2016″?
Ms. Harrington’s explanations continue to raise additional questions regarding her responsibility of tax collection:
1. Tangibles: why not work with the assessor’s office on a standardized procedure for collection of tangibles rather than just ignoring the delinquent collection for 12 years?
2. Motor Vehicles: Little Compton pays motor vehicle taxes to the State, regardless of whether those taxes are collected from Little Compton taxpayers, so why would the collector not pursue the taxes owed to the town?
3. Property: Why send a collection notice and not follow up with other avenues that the state allows for collection of property taxes?
TheTown Attorney mentioned during the Budget Meeting that there was a single delinquent payment of $45,000 paid on January 23, 2017, (the day prior) to the Budget Meeting. There was only one delinquent taxpayer that came close to owing $45,000, however; the penalty of approximately $20,000 would have had to have been waived for that specific amount to add up to the total that they owed, according to the December 15, 2016 Delinquent Tax Payers Report.
Rhode Island General Law 45-5-8.1:
“In no event shall the waiver of interest on a tax bill exceed $500, decisions shall be in writing, and contain a notice to the Town Council” and this is only if the taxpayers meets certain criteria.
Is there something more going on with delinquent taxes in Little Compton other than the tax collector not fully doing her job? The answer to that question will be up to the Town Council, Solicitor and Budget Committee to decide.
The Town Solicitor has crafted a letter with a collection schedule that will be sent via certified letter to all delinquent tax payers with an opportunity to pay their delinquent taxes or to contact the Tax Collector’s Office within 30 days (perhaps to at least develop a mutually acceptable payment plan to begin the process of collection). The process has always been that payment plans must be in writing and approved by the Town Council. Procedures to pay taxes by credit card were discussed, as well as a plan for the Town Council President to meet weekly with the Tax Collector for updates on delinquent collections.
The challenge is going to be the identification of those old delinquent taxes that could possibly have had penalties waived over the past 12 years, a very clear violation of Rhode Island General Law. An external and thorough audit of the Tax Collection Office sounds like money well spend for the town.