Tax Recovery Plan Hits Snag
First Selectman Jeff Capeci at the February 5 Board of Selectmen meeting reported that Capital Tax Recovery, a company the town was looking to hire to get vehicles registered out of state and out of town onto Newtown’s tax rolls, has withdrawn its offer to contract with the town.
On February 2, a letter from Bryan Fischer from Capital Tax Recovery stated, “after careful consideration and further evaluation, I have determined that our proposed collaboration on the Motor Vehicle Compliance project is not warranted at this time.”
“My decision is based on the Legislative Council’s concerns, the low population density, and my experience with similar towns,” the letter continued.
While the letter does say Fischer is “open to re-evaluating” working with the town, Capeci said there is currently “no path” to bring the company onboard with the town.
Selectman Michelle Embree Ku asked if there were other options for the same work, and Capeci noted there were only two companies that offer that service in this region, and Tax Assessor Kathy Brown had chosen CTR as the better of the two.
Capital Tax Recovery is a company that sends out private investigators with plate readers who check plates around town, on the roads, in driveways, and in parking lots. In addition to catching cars registered out of state, they catch unregistered vehicles as well.
In a letter to the editor in this week’s Letter Hive on page 11, former First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said that vehicles housed in town being registered out of state was a common complaint to his office and he and Brown worked to find ways to curb people avoiding paying their property taxes in Newtown.
“It didn’t and still doesn’t seem right to me that some willfully flaunt the registration requirement at the expense of those that take it seriously,” stated Rosenthal in the letter. “I do not understand the outsized concern for people not doing the right thing at the expense of the vast majority that do. With the budget weeks away from the Council’s oversight, I hope greater concern will be shown for the residents who actually foot the bill.”
Rosenthal went on to say that he was “confounded” at the “logjam” the issue faced at the Legislative Council after it breezed its way through the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance in December.
The issue was tabled by the Legislative Council on 10-2 votes at both its January 3 and January 17 meeting.
“If people are complaining that scofflaws are not paying their taxes, we know which body to send them to,” joked Capeci.
At the January 17 meeting, council members Laura Miller, Heather Dean, and Steve Hinden had concerns about privacy issues and residents being under “constant surveillance”; about lower income residents lacking garages or longer driveways and thus having vehicles that are more accessible to be scanned from the road, who would then be disproportionately targeted; about the possibility of residents reporting their neighbors on suspicions of tax avoidance; and how any information collected by CTR would be used.
“I’m not against this, I’m just concerned about how the process would work,” said Miller.
Hinden appeared to be in opposition to the contract.
“We would be engaging private investigators to surveil our citizens,” said Hinden. “I’m not convinced that could be done without an invasion of privacy. I’m not there yet on this. I have concerns with how this would work and I don’t feel comfortable with this.”
Member Ben Ruben spoke in support of the program and how it would bring much needed revenue to the town.
“Skipping the tax rolls is skipping the tax rolls,” said Ruben.
Councilman Jennifer Nicoletti, speaking as an individual councilman and not for the full council, stated in a letter to the editor in today’s Hive that she wished the issue had come to a vote for approval, and she would have supported it.
“Unfortunately, a small group of council members got bogged down in a line of questioning directed at the vendor that had little relevance to the task at hand,” stated Nicoletti. “How would we look taxpayers in the eyes asking for possible increases placing the burden squarely on them knowing that we did not seize the opportunity to fill the holes in our tax rolls?”
The Legislative Council was expected to discuss the issue further at its meeting on February 7, the results of which were not available before this article went to press.
Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.