List of tax delinquents posted in New London as date for auction set

New London — Tax Collector Maureen Farrell frowned slightly at the suggestion that a recently posted list of real estate tax delinquents on a bulletin board at City Hall equates to a “wall of shame.”

The list, also published in the newspaper, is the annual notice for an upcoming public auction in which properties with delinquent taxes will be sold.

“It’s a collection tool,” Farrell explained, and one of only a few tools available by state statute to prod owners to pay their taxes. The city has opted for tax auctions over foreclosure proceedings for several decades, with good results. Farrell said the city regularly can count on collecting between 98 and 99 percent of all real estate taxes.

This year’s delinquent list was first published April 8 and contained a total of 44 properties, with the owner’s name and amount of taxes owed. The city also will collect 1.5 percent interest for every month the taxes are not paid.

Two state marshals, tax warrants in hand, will pursue the owners, collect the money owed for the city and preside over a June 20 tax auction at City Hall for any properties that have not been removed from the list.

The list will shrink as the weeks go by, Farrell said, and typically only a handful will remain before the day of the auction. The list will be followed by two more notices, along with certified letters to the property owners.

Most of the taxes are just a year old but older bills might signal a previous tax payment plan that was not honored, for instance.

State Marshals Joseph LoGioco and Joseph Heap III are collecting the delinquent taxes this year, along with their 15 percent fee set by statute and any costs associated with their work — things like title searches and advertising.

The auctions have occurred each year since Farrell started in the tax office in the 1990s. She can attest to several frequent flyers — the same property owners who, for whatever reason, annually fail to pay their taxes on time and end up paying penalties.

“I wouldn’t think it’s in their best interest to be paying interest all of the time,” Farrell said. “Why are you paying all of this money when you could have paid your tax bill? They must have their reasons.”

This year’s list contains some recognizable downtown building, such as the office complex at 224 Bank St., with a delinquent bill of $48,307. The property is owned by 238 Bank Street Associates, whose LLC principal is listed as Salvatore F. Garfi of Berlin.

O’Neill’s Brass Rail at 52 Bank St. is another on the list, with $15,450 due in taxes. The building is owned by ALE Properties LLC. The Cronin Building at 78 State St., owned by artist and antiques dealer Evan Blum, made the list again this year, with a $9,101 tax bill.

Blum is the owner of the Demolition Depot and Irreplaceable and purchased the historic building in 2005 but never opened a business. The city claims storing items in a downtown storefront violates zoning regulations.

“A lot of these people for one reason or another just don’t pay their taxes when they get their bill,” LoGioco said. “A lot of these people don’t even have mortgages on their property. They’re getting charged all these extra costs. Why they do it, I have no idea. It befuddles me,” he said.

There are a few owners, LoGioco said, that don’t live in the city, haven’t given the city a change of address and missed their tax bill — not that that’s a valid excuse.

LoGioco predicts his list of 32 properties will be whittled down to less than 10 by the day of the auction. Even after a property is sold at auction, the former property owner will have six months to redeem the property by paying the sale price plus interest. A few have paid the taxes already and LoGioco said he’s gotten phone calls from others asking for payoff amounts.

He credited the city with an aggressive stance on collecting property taxes that has yielded results.

“We’ve been doing this for over 20 years. There was a period of time many years ago when nothing got done — back in the 1980s,” LoGioco said. “To me, it's simple arithmetic. They got to a point where they said, 'Hey, we’ve got to collect our money.'”

g.smith@theday.com

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