>Does anyone have an extra $1500 cash or more lying around the house; if you do can you lend it to a neighbor? According to Middletown resident Dora Crisafulli, she was turned away from the Middletown Tax office yesterday (November 29, 2010) when she showed up to pay her property taxes. As it turned out she wasn’t the only one turned away, others who showed up Monday were also turned away.
Mrs. Crisafulli stated that when she arrived at the Middletown tax office Monday morning, there were several people in front of her, all waiting to pay their tax bills before the end of the month. Each resident was told that their payments were late and that their tax bill should have been paid by November 10th (since payments dates were adjusted a few months back to reflect the new bill payment schedule that require taxes due on the 1st of the month), each were told that only cash or certified cashier checks would be accepted as payment. No personal checks, credit or debit cards would be taken. According to Crisafulli, it seemed that a near riot would ensue as people were being turned away.
One elderly woman left the tax office in near tears when she couldn’t pay half of her tax bill by personal check with the remaining balance placed on a credit card. Others in line became angry and agitated at the situation, no one could understand the reasoning behind the sudden change in payment methods and they questioned who had that kind of money lying around?
When it was Crisafulli’s turn at the window she demanded to speak to the office supervisor (Crisafulli couldn’t remember her name) when she was not allowed to use her debit card to pay her taxes and found out that a late charge of nearly $60 was being added to her bill. She was told by the clerk that the supervisor was currently busy but could speak to her shortly. Mrs. Crisafulli let the clerk know that she expected to talk to the supervisor after she returned from the bank with cash.
Upon her return from the bank, Mrs. Crisafulli asked to speak to the office supervisor before paying her tax bill. When the supervisor came out to speak with Mrs. Crisafulli, she was probably sorry that she had, Crisafulli gave her an earful.
Crisafulli stated to me that she had asked why she and others had to pay by cash or by certified cashier’s check (which would have been subjected to an additional $15 bank service fee) when previous to this date other forms of payment were acceptable? She also questioned why she was charged and added misc. interest charge of $51.54 over the normal late interest fee of $8.04, which she had been paying since the Township change its payment cycle a few months earlier (Crisafulli stated that she was on a fixed income and doesn’t always have money available on the first of the month). Previously to the change, she had never been late with a tax payment and she would have paid her tax bill on Friday but the office was closed the day after Thanksgiving.
The woman that Mrs. Crisafulli spoke to informed her that the reason for the changes to the payment policy, was due to the upcoming Tax Lien sale that was being scheduled for late December (Crisafulli stated 12/28 but more than likely in January).
Anyone late in their tax payments, were being required to pay by either cash or certified check and the additional interest charge was for the purpose of processing the paper work for the upcoming tax sale and to place notices in the area newspapers.
After hearing this Mrs. Crisafulli was shaken and upset, she wanted to know how in the world Middletown could place a lien on her house and put it up for sale without her notice or her being delinquent in her tax payments; she never was and had ever been habitually late paying her taxes. She was mortified that her name would appear in the newspapers and that her neighbors would think that she was a tax cheat.
Only after the supervisor stated that she would check on Mrs. Crisafulli’s status, to see if her house was going to be included in the sale and notices, did Crisafulli make her cash payment and request a receipt.
Two hours later the phone rang in the Crisafulli’s house and the voice at the other end of the phone notified Mrs. Crisafulli that she was safe; her house wasn’t being subjected to the tax sale and no notice would be placed in the local newspapers.
Needless to say she was relieved to hear the news, but what about the others, who have been turned away over these last couple of days, have they been told of the upcoming tax sale and whether or not their homes would be included?
This is disturbing; I can’t imagine that Middletown would be so hard up for tax revenues that it would refuse to take late tax payments from residents unless those payments were made with cash. It is paramount to extortion, either you pay us in cash or we will but a lien on your house and then put it up for sale. How can this be possible, is this just a simple case of misunderstanding or is there something more to it? I have never heard of such a thing happening unless a property owner’s taxes were considered habitually past due. I also don’t understand why residents can’t pay with a credit card, the service fees that the banks charge the township are being passed onto the taxpayers, and the Township no longer absorbs those transaction fees. It just makes no sense.
Someone needs to question this before unknowing residents are hit with tax liens against their properties and find themselves in a court fight to keep their homes or businesses.
I placed a phone call to Middletown Committeeman Sean Byrnes last night to ask if he had known what was happing at the tax office. He stated that he did not but would contact Township Administrator Tony Mercantante, to inquire about it and get back to me.