Montville eyes tougher tax collection policy

Montville — Town officials are exploring ways to implement tougher measures to ensure quicker payment of delinquent taxes while avoiding costly attorney fees.

Town Council Deputy Chairman Wills Pike said the Finance Committee recently asked Finance Director Theresa Hart to review the practices of other area towns and research ways to bolster Montville's policy, which officials said hadn't been updated in about a decade.

"We need to stiffen our policy up," Town Council Chairman Tom McNally said, describing the current rules as too lenient.

In real estate alone, at least $3.9 million is owed to the town in delinquent taxes going back to 2002, according to Tax Collector Jerl Casey.

Hart and Casey said the town sends demand notices and, after two years of nonpayment, sends warnings to homeowners that attorneys could begin foreclosure proceedings.

"We need to be forceful when that delinquent bill goes out," Hart said. She added that people who fall behind are even less likely to catch up after two years have passed and the overdue taxes rack up interest.

Hart and committee members also said the policy could be strengthened with regard to property owners who fail to maintain payment plans.

Mayor Ron McDaniel said it was important for "a little more research to be done" on potential policy updates.

"To have one hard and fast policy without any consideration of circumstances may be a little draconian," he said. "That being said, you've got to treat everybody fairly."

Hart also is reviewing the City of New London's collection procedures, which McNally suggested are stricter and spur quicker payment.

Instead of foreclosures after a certain number of years go by, New London utilizes state marshals once several months have passed without a homeowner's tax bill being paid, according to Maureen Farrell, the city's tax collector.

Farrell said after a real estate bill becomes delinquent in July, the city sends out a series of notices. By September, if the taxes still haven't been paid, the city warns that it can garnish the owner's wages and eventually sell the property.

Farrell said by October, New London turns over tax collection on such properties to state marshals, who deliver a letter and a copy of a tax warrant to the property owner, sometimes in person. The marshal is paid by adding their fee to the tax bill.

"If they (property owners) continue not to pay, by January you are now going into the tax sale process," Farrell said, referencing the city's annual tax sale. Farrell said as time passes and the tax sale nears, more and more delinquent property owners show up and pay their tax bills.

She added that the relatively quick process, compared to waiting a couple of years before initiating foreclosures, "in the long run makes it easier for people to keep their property."

New London and Montville both employ collection agencies when it comes to overdue business or vehicle taxes.

Casey noted the town previously used state marshals for collections on business and vehicle taxes, but without positive results. With the collection agency used since 2015, the town has seen almost $160,000 in delinquent business and vehicle taxes roll in.

Officials said the town still is in talks with CT Financial Partners, a limited liability company that owns several vacant houses and still owes the town more than $1 million in taxes that have gone unpaid since 2010.

b.kail@theday.com

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