NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 3, 2012

Official's tax debt under question

Opponent calls selectman's override endorsement hypocritical

(Continued)

As of this week, the taxes and fees remained unpaid, according to Town Treasurer Diane Doyle. Doyle has confirmed that the title takings on the three properties were advertised in The Daily News in late November 2011 and the date of the Instrument of Taking was Dec. 15, 2011.

An Instrument of Taking is a legal mechanism by which a town takes title of a property for non-payment of taxes. The tax collector takes such action when taxes remain unpaid for 14 days after a demand letter is issued. Holding the title is a way for the town to secure payment of the outstanding taxes. Once the taxes are paid, the town files an Instrument of Redemption with the Registry of Deeds.

“We have seen unprecedented collections over the past two years and have worked very hard to address delinquent accounts dating back to 1983,” Doyle said.

Boucher said the town could have legally moved to foreclose on Story’s properties in June — six months after the tax-taking occurred. “Why the free pass?” he asked.

But Town Administrator Tracy Blais disputed Boucher’s claims, calling them “inaccurate.”

“All delinquent accounts of the town have followed the same process under Mass General Laws since we began this process,” Blais said.

Blais said the town has implemented an aggressive collection policy, which has yielded results. Demands have been issued, liens have been filed and foreclosure action is currently under way that includes letters from the town’s foreclosure attorneys mailed in July 2012, she said.

“The tax collector’s office has worked tirelessly on this project and it is a time-consuming process that can often take years before a final foreclosure decree is issued by the Land Court,” she said.

Story disagreed with Boucher’s assertion that his support of the tax override is hypocritical. Instead, Story said he believes it only underscores how he personally understands the hardship a tax increase would cause for people who are already struggling.

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