Thursday, April 17, 2014

Know More About Tax Liens

By coincidence, the AARP Bulletin has an article on dangers of tax liens just as the City Council is passing legislation broadening reasons why liens can be placed on a home.

Homeowners would be well advised to learn more about tax liens and how, as the article points out, a tax debt can swell with interest and other charges to an insurmountable burden. The article also goes into illegal practices that some who buy tax liens use. It is not just embarrassing to have one's tax lien published in the local newspaper, it can lead to homelessness.

The city annually holds tax lien sales at which investors buy the liens and pay the money owed. The property owner then owes the investor the money, plus up to 18 percent interest. After a set period of time, the lien holder can move to foreclose on the property.

The ordinance just passed this week on first reading would add costs incurred when the city has to "abate a nuisance, correct a defect, or put a premises in proper condition." The city would have to document the activities performed, show a reasonable cost and certify that the action taken and the costs were both "necessary and reasonable under the circumstances."

The ordinance will be up for a public hearing, second reading and final passage in May.

Plainfield's tax collection rate has varied over the years. The city's auditors, Supplee, Clooney, noted a collection rate of 93.84 percent on Dec. 2012, up from 90.50 percent on Dec. 2011, when almost 10 percent of property owners failed to pay their taxes. In 2013 the rate improved to 96.32 percent and Ron West, finance director in the new administration, is aiming for an even better rate as part of a comprehensive budget strategy.

If you want to know what the city does with your money, take a closer look at the budget process. The administration developed a budget which is posted on the city web site. The governing body will begin deliberations on the introduced budget tonight with an overview of projected costs for the police and fire divisions.The entire budget deliberations schedule is on the city web site. The council has the power to amend the budget and will hold a hearing on the amended budget before final passage.

There are two important meetings tonight and I am probably going to the Planning Board meeting where Muhlenberg's application to relocate the satellite emergency department will be heard. That one is 7 p.m. in the Plainfield Public Library's Anne Louise Davis room.


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