DANBY — The select committee responds to the delinquent tax collector’s arguments for a new vote on whether his position should be nominated.
On Town Meeting Day, voters elected Doug White as delinquent tax collector. They also approved an article asking the council to appoint a delinquent tax collector.
White and the board disagree on whether White is currently nominated or elected.
Board Chairman Brad Bender said Monday that the city meeting day ballot was to feature the race for the delinquent tax collector and the item asking to name the position, in case the latter would fail.
“But since the question passed, the way the law works is whoever was elected doesn’t count, the select committee had to appoint, and (White) argued with us about that, that “He’s elected and we didn’t have to appoint. Our lawyer said no, you have to appoint. And we did, we nominated him. It was clear he won against the anyone running against him, so why not follow the wishes of the voters?” Bender said.
White said Monday that he was elected and his nomination was unnecessary and therefore invalid.
Eric Covey, a representative for Secretary of State Jim Condos, said in an email Monday that the office could not comment specifically on Danby’s situation.
“Based on our plain language reading of the relevant state law alone, our interpretation would be that an elected delinquent tax collector (DTC) would serve out his term, and then a municipality’s legislature would have the ability to name at the end of the DTC. term,” he said. “Again, we can’t say specifically in Danby’s case, as we don’t have all the details, or don’t know if there are additional considerations outside of the plain language reading of the law. , nor do we have the authority to issue legal advice or a decision. in this case.”
If White is appointed, that means the board can remove him. White said he spoke to the secretary of state’s office about it, while Bender said the council was advised by city attorney James Barlow.
White called for a re-vote on Section 8, which asked whether voters would authorize the council to appoint the delinquent tax collector. Voting will take place on May 17 by Australian ballot at the Town Office at 130 Brook Road with polling stations open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will be an information meeting the day before at Currier Memorial School, 234 North Main Street, at 7 p.m.
Bender said Monday that about two weeks ago the council sent a fact sheet to every household in the city with a registered voter. Between that and the cost of the election, he estimates the city will have spent $2,000 on this. He said there were 981 registered voters in the city. Section 8 passed by 88 votes, he said, a comfortable margin for Danby.
White argued that voters were not sufficiently informed about this issue in advance and may not have fully understood what they were voting for. He said this action makes the city less democratic.
Bender said Monday that the council disputes White’s claims about democracy.
“Then we start with this fearmongering thing, that the Select Board is trying to kill democracy in Danby,” he said. “It is not the case at all.”
He noted that state law allows voters to choose whether they want the delinquent tax collector elected or appointed. This is not a new law and many cities are opting for the appointment.
Who bears the cost of collecting overdue taxes is another disputed point between the council and White.
White circulated information claiming that the defaulting tax collector is paying for postage, office supplies and attorney fees. He said it would be covered by the city if the position became appointed.
According to Bender, the city is already paying for it and cites a check for $116 the council signed in December covering a postage bill for the delinquent tax collector.
Bender said there were properties where the level of delinquent taxes owed had increased so much that the city was forced to bid on them. He noted a property with a $15,000 bill that the city was forced to bid on. If the position of overdue tax collector were appointed, the board would have more control over when tax sales are initiated.
Some properties aren’t attracting bids regardless of when they went on sale, White said Monday.
He said he has a policy on when he initiates a sale, but no fixed timeline for when it should occur.
“If taxpayers put a payment plan in place, and we can get them out of it over time and we move forward and they work with me, then I work with them; I’m not throwing it away until a tax sale,” he said.
He noted that there had been a tax sale in March where the city was the only bidder and was only a year behind schedule.
Currently, the delinquent tax collector is paid 8% of any delinquent amount. According to the board, in the 2017-18 fiscal year, White received $19,303. He was paid $9,764 the following year, then $11,687, then $13,608, and in fiscal year 2021-22, $12,958.
If the position is appointed, the council will ask voters in 2023 to let it set an annual stipend for the delinquent tax collector. Bender said there has been no official discussion of how much that amount will be, but unofficial talks put it at around $2,000 a year.
Bender also noted that for the Town Meeting Day vote to be overturned, it cannot be by a simple majority. It must go through at least two-thirds of the original number of people who voted.
“So we had, in March, 310 people voting ‘yes’ to appoint a delinquent tax collector, which means that this time around there should be 207 more ‘no’ votes than ‘yes’ votes,” so it’s a pretty steep, tough battle,” Bender said.