Moretown wants to encourage as many voters as possible to participate in the October 11 revote, which will decide whether to give the select board the power to appoint a delinquent tax collector.
Moretown voters petitioned for a revote of an August 9 vote in which voters passed an article calling for the select board to appoint a delinquent tax collector rather than have voters elect one. That vote was 230-178.
On Tuesday, September 6, the Moretown Select Board met to determine the date for the revote, which must be held within 60 days of receipt of a petition, be warned 30 days prior to the revote and there must be a public informational meeting held prior to the revote.
The select board has to use these parameters, as well as look out for other scheduling conflicts with the Moretown voters’ schedule. Tom Martin, chair of the select board, originally proposed October 7 as the date. That date was posted on the town’s website even though the board had not voted on the date of the revote.
Moretown resident Sheila Getzinger said that it would be unwise for the select board to hold a vote on a Friday, considering it might not yield enough voters and it may seem like the select board does not want voters to participate.
Both Getzinger and the select board noted that historically votes have been on Tuesdays.
Martin informed Getzinger that was not the case at all and after some deliberation October 11 was agreed upon; it was one of the only dates that worked within all the parameters.
The vote will be warned in the Times Argus, the Waterbury Record and The Valley Reporter next week. The informational meeting will be held on Monday, October 3, and the vote will take place on Tuesday, October 11.
In order for the article to pass, the yes votes would need to be at least two-thirds of the 230 votes it received when it passed on August 9, or about 153 votes. In 2015 Moretown changed the date by which property taxes were due, changing the due date from being postmarked by October 30 to due in the town offices on October 30.
LATE FEES AND PENALTIES
That change resulted in many people paying their property taxes late and being assessed late fees and penalties. In response to people’s complaints, the select board asked the delinquent tax collector to abate those fees. When he refused, citing statute and the issue of fairness (being unable to decide which late payers should be relieved and which ones would not), the board discussed and ultimately proposed asking voters for the right to appoint the delinquent tax collector so that they could direct that person’s work.
The board also, in January and February, planned to let late payers know about how the process of seeking abatement worked and sent a letter to 22 of those whose payments were received on November 2. There were several others whose payments were received on November 2 who were not on the list of those who were sent letters.
COPIES OF ENVELOPES
Earlier in this week’s meeting, Getzinger spoke with the board about the letters that were sent to delinquent taxpayers. The Valley Reporter attempted to reach everyone on the list and could not find anyone who received the letter and Getzinger demanded an explanation for the missing letters.
Cheryl Brown, select board assistant, brought out copies of all of the envelopes that were sent.
The select board brought up last week’s article in The Valley Reporter and questioned the accuracy of the article, “Seventeen of 22 taxpayers did not receive abatement letter.”
Last week, The Valley Reporter spoke to 17 people, asking whether or not they received the letter. Seventeen of the 22 people who were to have received the letter said they did not receive it, one person could not remember and three people could not be reached. That information was published in the September 1 issue of the newspaper.
Tom Martin, chair of the select board, mentioned that the letter was sent because the select board wanted to inform the taxpayers of the abatement process. Since the beginning, the select board has wanted to make this right, he said.
Tom Martin, Rae Washburn and John Hoogenboom said that they would take responsibility for the letters so the select board could move forward.
Thus far at least eight late payers have filed for abatement. After the November 2015 property tax due date, Moretown’s board of abatement met in December 2015 and April 2016. At the December meeting, the board found that there had been manifest error in how the town communicated the due date change with voters. At the April meeting the board was divided on the issue of whether there had actually been manifest error because the 2015 tax bills state that tax bills must be received in the town offices by the due date.