LYNDONVILLE — A dispute over the timing of a property tax payment led a local property to be sold at a tax sale.
Doreen Holl told selectmen this week that she arrived at the Lyndon Municipal Building to pay her taxes in person on November 2, 2018. She said town clerk Dawn Dwyer and Lyndonville Electric Department employee Joanna Hastings refused to take her check at 4:27 p.m., instructing her instead to drop it into the overnight box. The deadline to file taxes was reportedly 4:30 p.m.
The former Moonlight Inn property, at 801 Center Street, is owned by Freshwater Industries, Inc. Holl, who is also part owner of the St. Johnsbury Country Club, is a principal.
Events on Tax Day
In a letter presented Monday to the board, Holl explained of events on the November 2:
“I saw that the tax bill for the property was due on that day. I called the office to ask where the payment could be dropped off. I was told that it had to be received no later than 4:30 and if I arrived after 4:30 it could be left in the outside mailbox, but that it would then be considered ‘late’….
“With that, I wrote the check and pulled into the parking lot at 4:27,” wrote Holl. “As I got to the doorway, two women were standing outside. I asked them if they knew what office I should be dropping off my property tax payment and they indicated that I could put it in the mailbox. The older woman indicated that they had just cleaned out the mailbox. I replied, ‘Great, then I will just give it to you.’ She said, no, it needed to go into the mailbox.”
Holl continued, “I walked to the mailbox to see that there was a sign on it saying something to the effect that (if) your taxes were not received by 4:30 (they) were late.”
“I turned to the women and said my taxes were not late, I was standing in front of you at 4:28 and I will not put my taxes in the mailbox to be charged a late fee when it was not late,” Holl’s letter went on. “There ensued a several minute argument in which they insisted that they had only put the sign up at 4:30 and if received at 4:30, it was still late.”
Holl wrote, “This was wrong, unprofessional, un-neighborly and inappropriate to knowingly insist that my payment was late when they knew in fact that it was not,” Holl wrote. “At that point, the conversation turned into a repetitive circle and they said that the only way my payment was going to be received is if I put it into the box, which I did.”
“When I asked who I could call to protest this, they laughed and Dawn’s assistant pointed to Dawn and said she is the tax collector,” Holl wrote. “I asked who would be above her and was told that I needed to write a letter or appeal to the board.”
She wrote, “for very obvious reasons I cannot appeal this to the tax collector’s office.”
The Bill & Tax Sale
Holl wrote that a tax penalty of $814.21 and interest of $67.82 were then assessed to her property tax bill. The penalty and interest bill went unpaid for more than six months at which time the property went to tax sale.
The town purchased it for $1,160.32 on June 25. The property was redeemed less than a month later, on July 22, by Freshwater Industries, Inc.
No taxes are owed on the property at this time, officials said Wednesday.
The town’s policy on delinquent taxes states, “Taxes remaining unpaid after the due date of the first Friday in November will be collected with an 8% penalty plus collection cost and interest at the rate of 1% for the first 3 months and a rate of 1.5% thereafter.”
The original penalty and interest bill applied the day after the taxes were considered late, totaling $882.03, grew with $240 in advertising for the tax sale, $6.80 in postage, and a few other small fees, to $1,160.32.
Now Holl wants to recoup those fees.
“I find it unconscionable to pay a late fee for taxes that were brought to the office on time,” she wrote to Municipal Administrator Justin Smith.
Holl’s complaint was discussed Monday night by Smith, Dwyer and the selectboard.
Dan Daley, chair of the board, referred the matter to the Board of Abatement.
A hearing has not been set, and the abatement board will need to have a request from the property owner for the issue to be considered, said Dwyer, who is also the town’s tax collector.
Dwyer did not offer further comment when asked about the topic on Wednesday.