If there is a property owner in Fairfield who takes great delight in paying the tax bill, we'd like to meet him or her.
Because for homeowners struggling to make the mortgage payment and feed the family, that bill can cause palpitations, if not outright panic. Yet town officials say 99 percent of Fairfield property owners pay their taxes.
And the 1 percent who don't? By circumstance or by design, they're cheating the people who bite the bullet, perhaps do without other necessities and pay their taxes.
But town officials this year are showing little tolerance for the biggest tax scofflaws, gradually ratcheting up the ante -- from public disclosure of the biggest delinquents, to preparing tax liens to targeting their properties for what would be Fairfield's first tax auction.
The increasingly hard line already has shaken loose about $1 million in payments of back taxes -- including payment from the No. 1 delinquent.
Each large delinquent who doesn't pay up in the next five weeks can continue to sit back and watch the property go on the auction block -- whether a home, investment property or business site.
The ramp-up toward the auction has been gradual but methodical, coming against the backdrop of increasingly vocal opposition to increases in town spending.
In early February, The Citizen asked the tax collector for a list of the 25 properties that owed the most in unpaid taxes. Those figures and the owners' names are public record, and then-Tax Collector Stanley Gorzelany obliged. The Citizen printed the list on Feb. 17.
In late March, Gorzelany (who since has retired) started the clock ticking toward an auction of properties one which big sums were owed, sending lien notices and targeting 32 of them for sale by the town if taxes were not paid.
Last week, officials said taxes had been paid on more than half the targeted properties. But they set the auction for Thursday, July 26, for those not paid up by then.
Make no mistake: Widows struggling to feed their children are not being hurled into in the street because they missed a couple of tax payments on a modest home.
To be on the list, $50,000 or more must be owed, $20,000 for properties owned by businesses, according to criteria set by Gorzelany, First Selectman Michael Tetreau and the town's chief fiscal officer, Paul Hiller.
Just the threat of auction was enough for some delinquents -- including the largest. A tax payment of nearly $408,000 was made on the 20-acre Sasco Point estate of Karin and Bradley Jacks. The total represented back taxes owed, interest, penalties and current taxes.
Most of the properties still on the list are commercial, including seven in the Kings Highway area owned by Fairfield Redevelopment Associates II LLC. More than $211,000 is owed on them collectively.
If property in fact is sold at auction in the Fairfield Ludlowe High School gym next month, some people will claim the town has been heartless, heaping cruelty on poor souls who've had a hard time in a horrid economy or who have suffered serious illness.
Except in the rarest of cases, an inability to pay is not a condition sprung suddenly on property owners the night before payment is due. Some of us may not be competent to handle our own affairs; some of us don't heed the warning signs; some simply refuse to face the facts.
The rest of us pay our taxes or we sell property we no longer can afford to maintain.
In this economic climate, those who pay their taxes should appreciate the town's actions to collect from those who habitually don't.