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July 26, 2012

 

Treasurer: Repeal tax payment policy

Legislators asked to reduce amount of time people have to pay county taxes

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

Cortland County legislators are once again mulling the politically charged topic of whether to accept payments on delinquent taxes up until nine days before auction.
County Treasurer Cindy Monroe told legislators at last week’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting that allowing such late payments is not fair to those residents who pay their taxes on time.
Monroe pushed for the deadline for payment to be moved back to Dec. 31, where it used to stand.
A property owner must be delinquent on his or her property for two years before foreclosure proceedings begin.
Committee members plan to reconsider the deadline in upcoming months.
The Legislature approved allowing late payments last year after four property owners sued the county to stop an auction of their properties.
The property owners had requested the county allow their payments on delinquent properties prior to auction but the county refused.
The county later settled with the property owners, accepting the late payments with the caveat that the legal proceedings against the county stop.
Legislators then set a payment deadline of nine days before an auction, but Monroe and Real Property Tax Services Director Bill Cinquanti say the change has created problems.
“We do a lot of work all through the year, getting people notified about taxes being due and multiple letters and advertising in the paper trying so hard to get people to pay so we won’t take their properties,” Monroe said.
Cinquanti points out the logistical problems of not signing the deed over to the county until eight days before auction. That gives the county a narrow timeframe to work within, doing things like inspecting the properties to ensure there are no hazardous materials on site.
The county has to inspect sometimes as many as 30 properties to determine they are fit for auction, Cinquanti said.
If hazardous materials are found, the property is not sold.
Such properties are left vacant until the county decides what to do with them.
The county will not sign those deeds over to the purchasers until the problems are cleaned up.
Cinquanti said he will recommend in the future that such properties be deemed tax exempt so taxes do not continue to accrue over the years they are left vacant and awaiting remediation.
Late payments also create problems for potential buyers, he said.
The auctioneer has produced a brochure for a planned auction in advance so any properties that later are taken off the auction block have already been advertised.
“Now you have people who drove in from Rochester and the auctioneer says the following properties are removed, no longer in the sale because the taxes are paid,” Cinquanti said as an example of the inconvenience the system could create.
Budget and Finance Chairman Tony Pace (D-7th Ward) expects the law might be modified.
“I think we have to go back and look at it because it has created other issues,” Pace said.
Committee member Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) said she is open to revising the date to longer than nine days prior to auction but does not want to take away the extension altogether.
“I don’t like the idea of the county taking people’s properties away if at some point they come up with the assets to pay the taxes off before they are auctioned off,” Arnold said.
She added a penalty should be handed down on those people who pay past the Dec. 31 deadline.

 

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