To the Editor:
Delinquent taxes are a growing problem for my town, Wheelock, Vermont and undoubtedly for other towns as well. The 2011 Warrant or list of property taxes that went delinquent was a longer list of names with larger amounts owed amounting to a larger percentage of the Grand List than ever before. No matter how you look at it, community members and property holders are struggling to pay property taxes.
I have served as Delinquent Tax Collector for over 10 years. I truly believe that my fellow citizens in Wheelock are making their best efforts to be responsible and meet their tax obligations. The current state of the economy, the lack of employment opportunities and the state of the real estate market are factors affecting the people in my community that owe delinquent taxes.
The Town of Wheelock, just like other towns in Vermont, makes a lot of money off people who owe delinquent taxes. The interest rate charged is the largest allowed by state law. By the end of the first year, the interest earned is 16.5 percent; by the end of the second year it amounts to 34.5 percent of the original tax owed. Should a property tax remain unpaid for four years which can happen if there is a legal issue or some other interference, the property tax owner would end up owing an amount of interest equal to 70.5 percent of the original tax owed. I currently have a delinquent account for which the property owners have paid slightly over 50 percent of what their original tax owed was by making the largest monthly payment they could afford and yet they still owe 90 percent of what the original tax was because of interest and penalties. Does this sound like how we should be treating our neighbors in Vermont during these difficult times?
I will be writing the Wheelock Select Board and asking them to lower the interest rate on delinquent taxes to a fairer amount. I absolutely agree that the interest rate charged has to be high enough to cover the cost of the loans taken out when there is a shortfall. I am sure we can find a fairer interest rate, one that meets the needs of the town without burying the delinquent tax payer in additional debt. This matter will be voted on at Town Meeting as it is every year. I hope my fellow citizens will consider this issue carefully. If you have any questions, catch me at the dump Saturday morning.