On August 9, Moretown voters will have more to decide than just their gubernatorial nominees.
The Moretown Select Board wants the right to appoint the town’s delinquent tax collector, a responsibility that is currently held by voters. At the select board’s June 6 meeting, members of the select board decided to put forth the article on August 9, asking the voters for that power.
Although the select board members noted that the current tax collector, Craig Eilers, has done a “good job,” they believe being able to appoint the official would be a “good business decision” for Moretown.
The article is attempting to resolve an issue that arose in 2015. In 2015, there was a lot of unrest in Moretown over a policy that caused a significantly higher number of people to be assessed the 8 percent delinquent tax penalty.
In 2015, Moretown reported $313,246.97 in delinquent taxes with $7,735.40 in interest on the delinquent taxes. Since 2010, delinquent tax collections have breached $300,000 twice, in 2013 and 2015.
What separated these two years is that many community members who were delinquent on their taxes did not believe they should have been assessed the 8 percent penalty fee.
There was a change in policy, which was approved at Town Meeting in March 2015, to change the date in which taxes had to be received by the town treasurer. In previous years, the town treasurer was able to accept taxes as paid on time as long as they had a postage mark on or before the date they were due.
In 2015, the town voted to change this so that taxes had to be received by the treasurer by the due date, no matter the postage date. In 2015, taxes had to be paid by 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 31.
Currently the penalty fee acts as payment for the delinquent tax collector. If the town votes in favor of an appointed delinquent tax collector, it will be changed to a salaried position paid for by the town.
In 2015, the 8 percent penalty fees amounted to $20,271.53, up from 2013 and 2014, which were $13,262.20 and $11,048.23, respectively.
In the select board’s June 6 meeting, a situation was discussed in which the select board asked the current delinquent tax collector to waive all of the penalties from 2015, but because the delinquent tax collector is an elected official, that person does not answer to the select board.
One select board member said, “If we change the delinquent tax collector to a salaried position, because we would be paying him, he would acquiesce to our thinking.”
The current delinquent tax collector, Eilers, has been in the position since 2005. In that time he said he has never waived the 8 percent penalty because it would only create problems when deciding how to waive the penalty fairly.
Eilers, who has been delinquent in his taxes before, said that there is no way to waive the penalty for some while holding it in place for others.
Tom Martin, chair of the Moretown Select Board, said that it would be best for the town to consolidate the position and for the delinquent tax collector to be disconnected from a commission based on late tax fees.
Martin said that the town clerk and the town treasurer would absorb the responsibilities currently given to Eilers and their salaries would increase due to the increased workload, which makes any potential tax savings questionable.
In both Warren and Waitsfield, there is also an 8 percent penalty; however, in Warren the commission is split between the town and the collector.
Reta Gross, Warren’s delinquent tax collector, said that she does not recall waiving the penalty over 10-plus years holding the position. “We don’t make a habit of it because it is not fair to the taxpayer,” Gross said.
In 2013 to 2015, Warren penalty commissions were $57,000, $47,000 and $55,000, respectively.