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Letter: Delinquents editorial way off base

Published 11:49 am, Wednesday, February 27, 2013
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Your editorial defending the decision to publish the names of those with delinquent property taxes was alarming. You begin by asserting the right to publish public records. No one is disputing that right. The remainder of the editorial quickly begins to sound like an editorial from Occupy Wall Street.

Your downward spiral begins with the supposition that struggling, hard-working residents and widows with modest properties are subsidizing wealthy delinquents. This is untrue. Tax delinquency is a money maker for the town of Fairfield. Delinquent taxpayers are assessed interest rates of 18 percent on unpaid taxes. If Fairfield has $1 million in delinquent property taxes, they can (and do) simply sell municipal bonds at less than 3 percent for the amount of delinquency. Fairfield is guaranteed they will see a 15 percent net annual return when the tax lien is ultimately repaid.

As first lien holder on the property, the town always recoups that money. It is so lucrative to the town that it explains why the town allows delinquencies to span multiple years. Tax sales are only triggered when the value of the debt begins to approach the value of the property. Ironically, it is the delinquents that are keeping the taxes of other properties lower. Without the added revenue the 18 percent interest brings, everyone's taxes would rise. This point is clearly stated on a Connecticut state website. It points out that municipalities have fought efforts to lower this rate, specifically for this reason.

Your spiral becomes faster when you suggest those delinquents living in modest housing deserve "patience." Then you suggest they avail themselves of the appeals processes and tax credit programs. In contrast, those on the published list are "way past time to opt for more modest quarters" and are "fattening their bank accounts." (Exactly how is that achievable when one is accruing an 18 percent penalty?)

You apparently did not attempt to determine the circumstances of any of these people, merely surmised that "some of them" may have fallen on hard times. (For the news story on the delinquents, you did not even bother to go take a picture. You merely used one available on the Internet, and then did not even bother crediting it to Vision Appraisal.) In at least one case listed, there are serious addiction, marital, and legal issues for the owner. In another, the homeowner declared bankruptcy. These are also in the "public record," but you apparently didn't look. In addition, you have exposed children of these owners to publicity they do not deserve.

Having made your decision, why stop at the top 25? Either bring shame to every delinquent, or none. The financial issues facing the top 25 on the list are not appreciably different than those on the bottom 25.

Patrick McCullough

Fairfield