St. John’s city council says it is following through with plans to take sterner measures to recover overdue taxes.
That includes putting owners on notice that their water could be cut off, ramping up potential legal action, and planning a tax sale for delinquent properties.
Earlier this year, a CBC News investigation revealed that property arrears were a $13-million-plus problem in Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital city.
“People have come to the city and they’ve expressed concern about people paying their taxes on time, and it not being fair for those that are just getting away with it for a long period of time,” Coun. Jonathan Galgay said in an interview.
‘I suspect there will be a significant amount of properties up for sale.’
– Coun. Jonathan Galgay
Galgay said council directed senior staff to exhaust all recovery options before proceeding to more drastic measures, such as cutting water or going to court.
“But we felt that there is a certain level of accountability here, and people expect us to enforce these rules, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Galgay, who chairs council’s finance committee.
“It’s been going on for a long time now, but we’ve re-evaluated our approach.”
Some notices to cut off water issued
The city has a series of escalating options to deal with those behind on their taxes — everything from computerized notices to phone calls to liens to calling in collections agencies.
But officials have been loath to pull the trigger on more vigorous enforcement measures.
Now there are some steps being taken in that direction.
The city signalled its intent to do so in a May memo to council’s finance committee.
“On a go-forward basis, procedures such as cutting water and initiating tax sale will become more frequent for commercially owned properties,” that information note advised.
Over the past few months, city officials followed up with public notices to about eight commercial property owners, indicating they planned to shut off water services.
According to Galgay, the city has since had “some compliance” with a number of those property owners, who are working with the city on payment plans.
‘We just don’t want to put people out on the street.’