Casco sticks by back tax policy

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — During the past few years, the elected town government has embarked on an objective of collecting back taxes.

After all, those taxes are the town’s source of income; and while the majority of citizens have been forthcoming with their property tax payments, some have avoided the debt.

With less forgiving policies in place, the Town of Casco has collected about $250,000 in back taxes.

On Tuesday, residents showed up at a Casco Board of Selectmen meeting to redeem their homes and properties that were in the process of foreclosure because of tax liens.

More than 10 people were given the chance to reclaim their houses from the town — if they paid the property tax in full within 14 calendar days.

According to Town Manager Dave Morton “There are a number of people here tonight who would like to redeem their property. Technically, the Town of Casco owns property once it is foreclosed.”

He said at this juncture, it was up to the selectmen to decide whether or not they would accept payments at this late date.

“Current taxes must be paid — in the form of certified bank check or cash. I suggest that the board put forward reasonable time limits for these payments,” Morton said.

The first group of people had legal representation that placed blame on an error made by Mechanic Falls Bank for not transferring the payment on several adjacent properties in a timely manner.

Morton suggested that the board give those residents 14 days to remedy the situation.

“It is important to have that vote.

Right now, if that bank note comes in the mail tomorrow, we cannot accept it without board approval,” he said.

After some thought, Selectman Tracy Kimball said, “I hope that people won’t be in this situation three years from now.”

With back taxes through 2010 due in December 2012, it was well past the Eleventh Hour, the board agreed.

“It fell through the cracks,” the legal representation said.

The total debt amounted to $25,000.

The board voted to accept the payments to redeem to the most recent landowners of the properties on Map #3, lot 23 B; Map #3, lot 23; Map #3, lot 23-5; and Map #3, lot 23-7.

The town manager clarified that the foreclosure process would not be put on hold until the past due bill is paid.

“Next year, they will get a new tax bill,” Morton said.

That would be the case with all residents and all properties involved in Tuesday night’s proceedings.

Resident Laurie Peloquin said she had been making payments every month, but still had a balance due on her back taxes.

“The board decided we needed to deal with taxes in arrears,” Morton said.

“I cannot speak to this account regarding what the payment plan was. But, there have been regular payments toward the taxes,” he said, referring to a note on the paperwork.

Selectman Kimball asked, “Are you prepared to pay everything that is due?”

Peloquin answered, “Yes, I am.”

The board voted unanimously to accept the back taxes payment for Map # 1A3, Lot 521.

Resident Tosha Chute asked the board for 30 days to pay in full what her family owed.

“We owe $3,800. Me and my husband always put the taxes on the bottom of the list. We were given the property by a relative when we got married. So, it wasn’t like we went out and purchased a piece of property. We couldn’t afford that,” Chute said.

“I have two young children living there. We don’t make a lot of money,” she said, offering an initial payment of $1,000.

Chairman Mary-Veinessa Fernandes said, “You mentioned hardship. The Town of Casco isn’t a realtor.”

Fernandes said that the town office provides paperwork to defer payments or make payment plans “before it gets to this.”

Chute agreed, “It is a lot more severe now.” She promised to put the back tax bill on her household’s priority list.

Kimball said she would prefer to give a time limit of 14 days, since that was the fair playing field that had been given to other residents.

The board’s vote reflected the two-week deadline.

Another resident requesting to redeem her property, Peggy Smith, discovered she owed more than she thought because the most current taxes were also due. The total bill was now $862.

Selectman Grant Plummer said that for people “to prevent the foreclosure process, they had to catch up to 2010. Now, it includes current taxes.”

He asked, “Is that something you could do in the next two weeks?”

She said that it was do-able.

Smith said that she works until 4:30 p.m., and would have to mail her payment. Board members said that the town office is open until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, which would allow her to make an in-person payment after her work shift.

The last person to be given a 14-day window to bring his property tax balance to zero is currently living out-of-state. Morton read his letter, which claimed he thought that relatives had paid the taxes.

“The principal reason for having this on the agenda is to give folks an opportunity to redeem their property by paying back taxes,” Morton said.

He commended the board for doing a “great job” of clearing up the back taxes that showed as a debt on the town’s books.

There were more people on the newest foreclosure list; however, those people did not show up to Tuesday’s meeting.

“People need to deal with this sooner than later,” Morton said.

 

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