ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County supervisors denied two requests from property owners to waive interest and penalties on late property-tax payments.
At this week’s Ways and Means Committee meeting, which included the full board, County Treasurer Michael Diskin said the county was not at fault in the two cases, that it was the property owners’ responsibility to make the payments on time.
One case involves a parcel in Keeseville in the Town of Chesterfield that has an outstanding tax bill of $195.43. The owner set up a four-month payment plan and made the first three payments but did not make the last one.
Diskin said the county notified the owner about the missed payment at least four or five times. He recommended to supervisors that they reject the waiver request.
Ways and Means Chairman Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said the county could be opening itself up for problems if it arbitrarily waived penalties and interest charges.
“Once you open up that door, you are not going to close it,” he said.
The other case, Diskin said, involved a property in the Town of Schroon concerning two bills: one for $185.34 and one for $84.46.
Diskin said the property owner is claiming the property was purchased in October 2010 but the deed was not recorded until March 2011.
When the 2011 tax bill came out, it was in the former owner’s name, Diskin said, and it was not passed on to the new owner.
Scozzafava said the new owners should probably have a discussion about the tax-bill mixup with whoever handled their closing.
North Elba Supervisor Robi Politi said the obligation to file the deed is on the new owner, and it is not the county’s responsibility. Diskin agreed.
“I don’t feel that the county did anything wrong on this,” he said.
Supervisors agreed not to allow the waivers in both cases.
Under county policy, property owners can grieve their penalties and interest charges, and a committee and the supervisor of the town in which the property lies will review their claims. The issue is then brought before the entire Board of Supervisors for a decision.
“There have been cases where it (waiver) has been granted, but there are different circumstances with each case,” Scozzafava said.
“We have to be careful, and, ultimately, the responsibility rests with the taxpayer.”
He said the county will do everything it can to keep property owners from losing their property due to unpaid taxes or fees.
“Usually, the supervisors know about any cases in their towns, and we will do everything we can to help them,” he said.
“We don’t want properties to go to auction.”
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