Photo Gallery | Property owner owes more than $400,000 to Adams
ADAMS — Town officials say they are working aggressively to recapture the more than $1 million in delinquent real estate taxes.
And with yearly fiscal budgets remaining exceptionally tight, the town's efforts to garner the additional revenue can't come soon enough.
In the last 18 months, the town has more aggressively taken control of and sold properties at auction, totaling about $150,000. Those properties are now back on the tax rolls and their owners actively paying taxes, according to Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco.
The town also expects to place liens in the coming months on any property more than two years overdue on its taxes, allowing the town to recapture proceeds from any sale of the property.
The town has chiseled away at the mountain of unpaid property taxes, bringing the total number to $1.2 million, according to numbers compiled through fiscal 2015. Updated numbers are expected to be made public later this spring toward the end for the current fiscal year.
The more aggressive stance has encouraged some property owners to come into Town Hall and pay the amount they owe, or at least get on a payment plan, according to Treasurer Kelly Rice, who Mazzucco credits with much of the town's progress in reclaiming unpaid taxes.
"The ones with a payment plan have been coming in regularly," Rice said.
When the town fails to collect 100 percent of the taxes it attempts to levy, the missing funds come out of its free cash. That free cash could otherwise be used for capital purchases, put into reserves, or to offset the property tax burden.
Though the $1.2 million in unpaid taxes seems like low-hanging fruit, Mazzucco said capturing it is far more complicated than it appears.
While placing a lien on a delinquent property is a good first step, it would take the town two to three years before finally receiving approval from a land court to take possession of the property. Only then can it be sold at auction.
"It by no means happens overnight," Mazzucco said.
To really whittle the amount of outstanding taxes owed to the town, "it's going to take years," Mazzucco said, and some of it is just uncollectible because liens weren't filed in a timely matter on properties that have switched hands multiple times.
The largest unpaid property tax bill now totals $449,230.93 and belongs to MJD Real Estate LLC, owner of the former Curtis Fine Paper Mill at 115 Howland Ave. Owned by Norman Dellaghelfa Jr., the property was fined by the Department of Environmental, the company was fined $1,000 by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2014 for waste site cleanup violations.
"There's still some business operation that goes on there and we are actually looking into revoking any of the permits for operations going on there," Mazzucco said.
Though he's often cautioned by concerned residents of the risks associated with taking ownership of a polluted property, Mazzucco said there are more grant opportunities for municipalities interested in remediation than the private sector.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.