By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Clinton County legislators approved a new law that will give delinquent property taxpayers more time to pay their late bills.
“I appreciate the legislature giving support on this,” said Legislator Mark Dame (R-Area 8, City and Town of Plattsburgh) who pushed for the new law.
“It’s not exactly what I wanted, but it’s better than what we had, and it’s an incremental step, and hopefully it will help someone out there.”
The new law will give taxpayers who are two years in arrears a chance to pay their back taxes within about 45 days of a property auction.
USED TO BE 90 DAYS
Since the late 1990s, the county would stop taking payments about 90 days before auctioning off delinquent properties in a mid-June auction.
Over the years, a number of taxpayers have come forward to pay their late taxes after the deadline only to be told by the county that payments could not be accepted even though the auction was yet to be held.
Dame argued that some taxpayers need more time to make their payments and that the county should not be making money off distressed people.
About 50 to 60 properties are auctioned off each year. Many of them are vacant land or empty homes, but some have been occupied.
At a public hearing on the proposed law Wednesday night, Dorothy Meyer told legislators that her son lost his property in Saranac last year and that she had to pay $21,500 at the auction to get it back when the back taxes were only $800.
She said the one-acre parcel with a mobile home on it is valued at only $40,000, and her son had lived there for 19 years.
She said her son, who had lost his job, tried to make the payments but was four days late.
“I would ask you to consider this and make it a little easier for people, especially with the bad economy we’ve had the past five years,” Meyer said.
Legislators agreed to the new law by a 9-to-0 vote. Legislator Sara Rowden (D-Area 4, Town of Plattsburgh) was absent.
Legislator Sam Dyer (D-Area 3, Beekmantown) said the new law would also help County Treasurer Joseph Giroux, who has to deal with upset late payers.
“If this does help somebody, then I think we have done the right thing,” Dyer said.
The new law also calls for a 10-percent penalty to be added to the delinquent amount.
The legislature initially considered a 15-percent penalty, but agreed to 10 percent after Dame argued that the fines and penalties for late payments are already too high.
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