Council Approves Tax Penalty Forgiveness Program

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22By Terry Rogers

According to City Manager, Eric Norenberg, Milford currently has over $467,0000 in unpaid property taxes, with some accounts dating as far back as 1995. At a City Council meeting on Monday, April 25, Mr. Norenberg recommended that council approve a Property Tax Forgiveness Program that would encourage taxpayers to make arrangements to bring their accounts current.

“When we look at revenue, and where our revenue comes from, one of the largest we have is property tax collection,” Mr. Norenberg said. “Of the balance owed to us, about $125,000 of what is owed are penalties and fees. What we are offering is that for every taxpayer who comes in and works out a payment plan that will bring their account current between now and June 30, we will forgive all the fees and penalties owed. We are hoping this offer will encourage people to come in and work out a realistic plan to get their account current by June 30.”

Mr. Norenberg explained that this program was a onetime only proposal and that the city would not be offering the elimination of fees every year. In addition, he said that for those who do not take advantage of the program, the City would be taking stronger action in order to collect past due balances. He said that for the program to work, the city had to be serious about the provisions in the charter that allow for the collection of back revenue, including court action.

“I think this is a great idea,” said Councilman Doug Morrow. “This will help people who simply haven’t been able to bring their taxes current by offering them a reduction in what they owe. But we also need to put some teeth in our collection efforts.” Councilman Garrett Grier agreed, saying that the city needed to create the program and then be tough on those who fall behind after the program ends.

Councilman Jamie Burk asked when the last sheriff’s sale was for the City. City Solicitor, David Rutt, said that it had been quite some time since the City had used the court system, which allows them to file liens or seize property for back taxes. Mr. Norenberg said that when he reviewed the back taxes, it was clear that some of the balances had been creeping up each year due to the added penalties and fees.

Tax bills will be mailed the first week of May along with a letter that outlines the program. The bill will show the current balance owed, the past due balance as well as any fees and penalties. Taxpayers will be told that they have until June 30 to come in and create a realistic payment plan that will have the balance due paid by June 30, less any penalties and fees as they will be waived as long as the payment plan remains current. Council approved the program with a vote of six to zero; Councilman Owen Brooks and Councilwoman Katrina Wilson were absent.

At the same meeting, Chief Kenneth Brown recognized four officers for their actions after a fatal automobile accident that occurred when the driver of the vehicle ran from a routine traffic stop on South Walnut Street.

“On April 8, Officers Jonathan Ricketts and Albert Sergeant initiated a traffic stop near Mispillion Apartments,” Chief Brown said. “As the officers stepped out of their car, the driver sped away. The officers returned to their vehicle to give chase, only to find that the vehicle had crashed into a tree just south of town. It was not until I watched the dashboard camera that I realized how far above and beyond duty the officers went to render aid to the passengers in that vehicle. The driver was deceased when they came upon the scene, but there was a passenger trapped and another thrown from the vehicle. Two other officers, Timothy Maloney and Brandon Hartlove, as well as Lieutenant Richard Jefferson, responded to the scene to assist. The four officers used several fire extinguishers to suppress the fires that continually broke out in the vehicle and rendered first aid to the passengers until medical personnel and the fire department arrived. Lt. Jefferson commanded the scene, keeping things organized throughout the chaotic incident.”

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