Saratoga County

Foreclosure threat prompts owners to pay

The city has collected $179,485 in unpaid taxes since a foreclosure sale was announced in Novembe

PHOTOGRAPHER:

The city has collected $179,485 in unpaid taxes since a foreclosure sale was announced in November, and only two properties still remain on the list.

The remaining owners have until the sale in early June to pay their taxes and avoid losing their properties. They owe a total of $16,000 in taxes and penalties, according to Accounts Commissioner Mark Seber.

“I’m happy the late people are coming in and paying their taxes,” Seber said. “When you get on the foreclosure list, you get their attention.”

The foreclosure sale was prepared by then-Accounts Commissioner Stacie Salvi last year. She sent the legal notices to 16 property owners on Nov. 7.

“People pay up at the end,” Mayor Anthony Sylvester said. “I can’t remember any time that they’ve ever really had to foreclose on anybody.”

Seber said he will send out letters on Monday to 39 property owners who owe 2005 taxes informing them a separate foreclosure sale on those properties could happen as early as this year under state law.

However, the city recently changed the way it applies late tax payments.

Under the current policy, the 39 owners who owe 2005 taxes will have to first pay any outstanding 2008, 2007 and 2006 taxes and penalties they owe before applying a payment to their 2005 taxes.

Those owners will have to collectively pay about $570,000 to avoid foreclosure, Seber said.

Previously, the city would have only required payment on unpaid 2005 taxes to avoid foreclosure, so under the old system Mechanicville would have potentially collected just $161,503.

This change was encouraged by the “Concerned Taxpayers of Mechanicville,” an outspoken group of local residents.

One of the group’s members, Mary Lou Anatriello, said she spent 35 hours compiling a list of people who owed unpaid taxes, based on city records.

Her group spent $800 last year to take out a 21⁄2 page advertisement in a local newspaper listing all delinquent taxpayers from 2001-2006.

“They paid a little quicker this time because I think maybe with the names in the paper that was a little inspiration to get moving,” Sylvester said.

Anatriello said the time and money her group spent on the project was worth the result.

“We’re responsible as American citizens to pay taxes,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that it was easy to do, it means that I have fulfilled my obligation, just like everybody else has fulfilled their obligation.”

Anatriello said residents told her they felt taken advantage of by delinquent taxpayers once they read her group’s advertisement.

“For those people who struggle to pay these tax dollars and do without, I think it makes them feel better,” she said. “It’s called accountability.”

Seber said that unpaid taxes, plus most of the penalties on those taxes, are already accounted for as a receivable in the city’s budget.

That means unpaid taxes collected are not extra funds for the city to spend, but the payments do reduce the possibility of the city using surplus money or raising taxes the following year.

“If you’re subsidizing the people who haven’t paid their taxes, potentially that’s going to cause you a tax increase,” Seber said. “You don’t have the surplus there to keep taxes down.”

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