The town’s tax collector, Thomas Hurley, was authorized by the Board of Selectmen at its June 9 meeting to forgive for the town’s benefit amounts of up to $4.99 that the town may owe to a taxpayer. When he brought the issue to the Board of Selectmen, Hurley explained the measure was necessary “as part of our efforts to improve operational efficiency of our department and the town overall.” He said Finance Director John Cifarelli had done the analysis and found each refund costs the town approximately $20, regardless of what the amount is. “That can add up to thousands of dollars each year,” he said.
In a conversation after the meeting, Hurley said the tax collector’s office last year lost one of three employees due to budget cuts, leaving just two full-time employees to keep up with the tax collection. For example, a taxpayer may be late on their motor vehicle payment; then the tax collectors need to research what exactly was due and send out a delinquency notice; and, if necessary, a second delinquency notice; add to that monthly interest payments. If the taxpayer has sent in their payment, they may end up with an overpayment of a few dollars.
Some people, when they are paying late, prepay what they expect the interest payment to be, Hurley said, and that also can lead to overpayment.
Hurley said state statute allows towns to disregard any amount under $5. Selectmen, in looking at a list of tax accounts affected by this, noted that on a 6-page document, only 23 or so had a credit of $3 or above; the vast majority involved just pennies, which up until recently, the tax collectors had to direct back to the taxpayer.
The question was brought up how he would handle those cases where the taxpayer owes the town just a few cents. Hurley said that was “the other shoe” and that he was bringing this potential second new ordinance to the selectmen at their July meeting. He said at the time when he was preparing the information to accompany his presentation, he didn’t have the information at hand.
According to state statute, the town can forgive up to $24.99, he said. “State statute allows you to do this and it will save the town money,” summarized Selectman John Carangelo.
Overall, the town’s tax collection rate is rated “excellent,” Hurley said. On a poster in the tax collector’s office, he posted the results of this year’s tax collection: 99.76% in real estate taxes; 98.65% for motor vehicles; and 99.53% on personal property from businesses. The high tax collection rate contributes to the AAA credit rating for the town.
By Bettina Thiel, Orange Town News Correspondent