Selectboard votes against reimbursements

Residents late to pay utility bills won't get forgiveness on fees

BRATTLEBORO — The Selectboard voted four to one against crediting an estimated 390 residents hit with late fees on their water and sewer utility bills.

Traditionally, first-quarter property tax and utility bills are due on Aug. 15.

Earlier this summer, however, the board announced it would delay the property tax collection date by 30 days. According to Town Manager Peter Elwell, some residents incorrectly assumed this change also effected utility bills. It didn't.

Elwell explained at the board's Oct. 18 meeting, that six people had asked to appeal the late fees. After digging into the number of late payments, the town's fiscal office staff reported that 390 accounts paid late.

Of those, 188 historically paid late, staff noted.

However, 3,000 accounts paid on time, fiscal office staff said.

According to Elwell, staff also pointed out that the only way to credit the accounts was manually. The town would also lose $6,899.63 in revenue, staff said. Fiscal office staff recommended against the abatements.

Elwell said that in the future, the town will strive to better clarify due dates for property taxes and utility bills.

During board discussions, members Dick DeGray advocated for either refunding the late fees or providing a credit on the next round of utility bills. The other board members disagreed. Member John Allen called the refunds “a pandora's box.”

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates