The following was submitted by Yorktown Supervisor Susan Siegel on the issue of tax foreclosures.
As part of the Town’s ongoing program of aggressively pursuing unpaid back taxes (aka liens), Supervisor Susan Siegel reported today that, as of September 30th, 99 property owners out of 185 on the 2008 foreclosure list have paid approximately $900,000 in back taxes, and 21 others have entered into installment agreements to pay up over a 24 month period.
“I inherited a mess,” Siegel said, reflecting on over $4 million in unpaid taxes. “As a concerned resident, I remember addressing the Town Board on this issue back in 2008 when I asked what was being done about it. Clearly, the answer was very little.”
In an analysis of the 65 remaining properties that will be presented to the Town Board for discussion at the October 11th work session, the properties are divided into several categories so that the Board will be able to review appropriate options for proceeding with the next step in the foreclosure process. Of the 65 properties, 24 are houses, three of which appear to be vacant.
One likely option will be to send follow up letters to each property owner reminding them that they can still prevent foreclosure by entering into an installment agreement with the Town to pay off the back taxes.
Dealing with the occupied houses presents a different set of problems, Siegel acknowledged. “We want to be compassionate and understanding if people have financial problems, but we also have to think of the thousands of residents who pay their taxes on time,” she said. “The Town has to have one set of rules for everyone. We must treat everyone the same way.”
In 2010, the Town raised over $400,000 selling eight unneeded town-owned parcels at auction. Siegel added that before any vacant parcel is put up for auction, it will be referred to the Town’s Advisory Committee on Open Space and Conservation Board for their input.
“Each parcel needs to be looked at individually,” Siegel said. “Some of the vacant parcels might be of interest to the abutting property owner and could be sold at auction. The town would realize some much needed revenue and the property would be put back on the tax roll. Other vacant parcels may abut an existing town park and the town may want to keep them and designate them as parkland.”
In 2011, the Town sent foreclosure warning letters to 179 property owners in arrears of their 2009 taxes, and collected over $1 million from 142 owners. The remaining 37 properties will be included in a 2009 foreclosure petition to be filed within the next week. “If we hadn’t sent the warning letters we might still be waiting for that million dollars,” Siegel said. “Staying current on tax collections should always be one of government’s top priorities. It certainly is one of mine.”