Raymond Town News
This week two articles posted on another online media site made claims about Raymond residents' upaid taxes, and resurrected the well-known story of buried tannery hides.
Left unsaid were any comments by residents named for not paying their taxes.
"The article as written does a disservice to the community and is inaccurate," Town Manager Craig Wheeler said at the Feb. 27 Board of Selectmen meeting.
And Selectman Wayne Welch added, “usually you ask for the facts before you write, rather than after.”
The facts: Some Raymond property owners are in arrears on their taxes, just as occurs in towns throughout New Hampshire, and some Raymond residents in prominent roles are or have been in that position. But as of Feb. 27, 2017, 98 percent of the taxes on tax year 2016 properties have been paid, according to Town Clerk Sharon Walls.
Meanwhile, years ago, ignoring the effect on the environment, tannery hides were buried throughout the Town of Raymond. They were found primarily along the Route 107/27 intersection area, under the pavement of Cozy Corner plaza and at the old Regis Tannery/Rex Leather site on Wight Street. Owners of properties where hides are buried are responsible for the required cleaning of the site. If the Town were to take such a property for unpaid taxes, the Town would be responsible for the cost of cleaning it before sale – something that would add to the tax burden for all residents.
About 10 years ago, the Town identified hide burial sites and worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to mitigate them. None of the hide locations are near the Town’s water wells.
At the Feb. 27 Board of Selectmen meeting, Wheeler addressed the online article, which he said contained “a tremendous amount of misinformation.”
Speaking of the hides, he said that the Town, working with the EPA, followed best management practices, with the “full knowledge of the Board of Selectmen and the public.” Hides were removed from the dam where they were buried; on an adjacent parcel on Wight Street, the best practice was to leave them “in situ” – in place – buried 15 to 20 feet down, he said.
Wheeler said some private homes have hides buried as well, and noted the selectmen have looked at those parcels regarding back taxes and “concluded properly” that to take them for back taxes would give the town liability.
Selectman Colleen West-Coates said in response to the article, tax liening and tax deeding are controlled by New Hampshire State Statutes (laws) and have a timeline process. “If a property owner does not pay his taxes in a calendar year, the property is liened for taxes,” she explained. “This act puts a lien against the property so that if it is sold, the taxes are recovered through the sale process. This also requires 18 percent interest to be charged on the back taxes. After approximately 3-1/2 years, a property can be ‘deeded’ or the process can begin to take the property from the owner for unpaid taxes. This can take up to another full year. At any time, the owner can pay the taxes in full and the ‘deeding’ goes away.” For more information, visit: https://www.nhmunicipal.org/TownAndCity/Article/345.
The Town has no recourse other than to follow state statute, she added.
As of Feb. 27, according to Town Clerk Sharon Walls, the Town is owed $1,308,054.84 for tax years 2004-16. For tax years 2004-15, the Town is owed $731,703.50 in past debt or bankruptcies. Walls said that taxes still due for 2016 are $1,308,054 minus $731,703, or $576,351.
Walls said the Town has 3,177 residential properties with buildings on them, including condominiums and apartments; 227 vacant residential properties; 730 manufactured homes; 109 commercial properties with buildings; 25 vacant commercial properties; 24 industrial properties with buildings; and 25 industrial properties that are vacant.
Wheeler said that throughout the town there are approximately 30 manufactured homes in various mobile home park locations whose owners owe taxes. The town does not want to take these homes because once it assumed ownership, it would have to pay rent to the park landowner.
Additionally, while the Town's tax levy this year is $5,800,640, a resident's tax bill also includes local school district, county and state school taxes, and as happens throughout New Hampshire, the local school tax portion is by far the greater sum. The Board of Selectmen does not have power over the school budget; that falls to the school board.
For the 2016 tax year, the school district levy was $13,196,655, more than double the size of the town levy; the state school levy was $1,957,535; the county levy was $909,840 and exempt properties was $287,597, for a total of $21,577,073.
Raymond Area News contacted the residents named in the article as not having paid their taxes. Selectman Greg Bemis and selectman candidate Bernie Peer both said they had paid their taxes last week. Selectman candidate Bill Hoitt acknowledged being behind on his taxes but said when he gets back to full-time work, he'll be paying them, adding that he's working to pay his taxes like a lot of other people. State Rep. Kathleen Hoelzel said she is taking care of paying her taxes. Planning Board candidate Alissa Welch said her property was just acquired and she has a payment plan with the town. Joe Povilaitis, a Zoning Board of Adjustment member, and Micol Greenwood, town employee, could not be reached for comment.