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Town collects nearly half of its delinquent tax bills

GUILFORD—Penny Marine, who wears many hats for Guilford’s town government, appeared at the Sept. 14 regular Selectboard meeting to report on her progress as Delinquent Tax Collector.

Marine, who also serves as Town Clerk and Treasurer, was appointed to collect delinquent taxes in January, 2015.

As of a year ago, Guilford was owed $512,000 in delinquent taxes. By July 1 of this year, Marine’s efforts brought in $220,000. Marine said she also brought in $8,000 in penalties, and that money goes into the General Fund.

Marine said the number of people owing delinquent taxes to the town on Jan. 1, was 76. As of August 1, that number was down to 42.

“Thirty-four people have now paid up,” she said.

Board member Sheila Morse asked Marine what changed to inspire so many people to settle their tax debts to the town.

Marine said no new policies were created.

“There was a policy,” she noted, “but it was not enforced.” Marine said that prior to her appointment, there were “no written agreements” between those who owed back taxes and the town.

On Jan. 1, Marine sent a letter to everyone on the delinquent tax list. As a result, she said she “got several phone calls, and several people came in” to her office.

“It’s been improving each month that goes by,” Marine said.

“People know I’m serious,” she added.

“With the economy the way it is, I think you’re doing one hell of a job,” board member Dick Clark told Marine.

Resident Steve Lembke asked Marine if the town would hold a tax sale on any properties for which delinquent taxes were owed.

“Yes and no,” Marine replied, explaining there is a policy in place empowering her office to do so, but “we’re not here just to take somebody’s property away. We want to help them."

She said she prefers to negotiate with property owners, but they have to come in to her office and set up a payment agreement to avoid a tax sale.

“Everybody is an individual,” Marine said, “and there’s different circumstances and situations."

Morse asked Marine her confidence level in collecting the remaining $290,000 in delinquent taxes.

“I feel pretty good about it,” Marine replied.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #325 (Wednesday, September 30, 2015). This story appeared on page D4.

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