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Clarksburg Tax Delinquents Strongly Urged to Arrange Payment Plans
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:27PM / Wednesday, December 27, 2023
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The town's recent attempt to recover delinquent tax payments may have seemed like hard ball but no one was evicted from their home on Wednesday. 
Town Treasurer/Tax Collector Kelly Ryan thought a report in a local newspaper two weeks ago had misconstrued the tax title process by using the word "seized" in the headline and referring to an auction in the article. 
"A tax taking is a pre-foreclosure measure and it's considered a serious delinquency," she said at Wednesday's Select Board meeting. "So in an effort to collect the back taxes, the town has a right to file a lien against these properties and the owners at the Registry of Deeds."
Ryan wanted to clarify what was to happen at the 11:30 deadline that morning. It was not going to be an auction, as was explained to a gentleman who arrived hoping to bid on some property. Several people had also called about an auction.
Rather, she would announce out loud those properties still in delinquency and move forward with a title lien within the next 60 days. 
"People have to pay their taxes, if they don't pay it, other people have to pay higher taxes," said Chair Robert Norcross. "We're not out to seize property or anything like this, we are helping people to have a payment plan and pay their taxes and try to come up with a way that everybody can pay their taxes."
Town Administrator Carl McKinney said "the article made it seem like we're gonna throw people out of their houses two days after Christmas."
The town treasurer's office has had significant turnover in the last few years. Ryan was hired earlier this year and has been working back through several fiscal years to recover delinquent tax bills. 
An instrument of taking notice was published as a legal notice and on the town website for 22 property owners whose delinquencies date as far back as 2017 and total $201,455.38. They were given until 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 27 to make arrangements to pay. 
Ryan said she's sent numerous letters and attempted to call these owners but those efforts had failed — until the posting. So far nine people have paid in full and a couple others are working to set up payment plans. Two others have been found to be deceased. 
"Failure to communicate with me and arrange payment on the account leaves a property in serious risk of foreclosure," she said. "So I just I'm really hoping to work with our taxpayers to come in and make a payment plan."
Taking the tax title means the property can't be sold until the lien is redeemed. And the lien just keeps getting larger the longer the debt isn't paid. Eventually, the town could take the property through Land Court and try to recoup the debt.
First, the debt will incur an interest rate of 16 percent; then the fees for recording the lien ($105) and publishing the notice get added on, and if it's redeemed, the owner has to pay for that recording as well. 
Ryan strongly encouraged the remaining tax scofflaws not to ignore her next notice. If they fail to respond to Land Court, they can lose all rights to fight a foreclosure. 
"This is a notice that you have to respond to or you risk that. You lose your rights to to fight that foreclosure," she said. "The Land Court may be able to foreclose on your home without a hearing."
The tax collector said she had requested a correction or clarification in The Berkshire Eagle and had hoped to explain the process on Northern Berkshire Community Television, but a volunteer was not able to cover the meeting.  
"I just wanted our taxpayers to know that we are really hoping that they come in and talk to me and make a payment plan. This is just not an easy thing to do," she said. "But it's something that hasn't been done in years and I just really encourage people to come in and make arrangements with me."
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