Is Raymond Corrupt? Don’t listen to rumors.
By Cheryl Killam 3-30-17
With voting on town and school warrant articles and the elections of town and school officials behind us now, it’s time to address the rant that Raymond is corrupt.
The definition of corrupt means to be guilty of dishonest practices and lacking integrity, cause to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain, crooked or fraudulent conduct by those in power; typically involving bribery, all of which could be misdemeanors that are lower than felonies and generally punishable by fine, penalty, forfeiture, or imprisonment other than in a penitentiary.
Yes, the town of Raymond is owed a huge amount of back taxes from many different taxpayers, commercial and residential; however, the tax collector cannot go door to door with a gun and demand payment or put a lock on homeowners’ doors to prevent entry, nor can the town simply evict a landowner the way a rental property owner can.
Raymond is a tight community with many families who raised multiple generations here and yes, many family members work locally for the town.
In a perfect world, we expect leaders to lead by example, but sometimes financial hardship can hit anyone at any time. There is nothing corrupt or illegal about anybody paying their taxes late. Every taxpayer has that option and should they choose to do so they know they have to pay the 18 percent interest on the unpaid balance.
When there is just so much money coming into a household, people are forced to make choices: pay for food, heat, electricity, clothes for the winter and gas in the vehicle to get to work OR pay town taxes. Clearly paying the town taxes is on the bottom of the list. That does not make it right or excusable.
As town manager Craig Wheeler stated, Raymond does not want to be in the landowner business, and proper procedures must be followed according to RSA 80:76 (https://www.nhmunicipal.org/TownAndCity/Article/345). As any person who has used the court system knows, those procedures take a lot of time and cost a lot of money, which would come out of the taxpayer general fund, thus wasting taxpayer money.
When looking at the 30 page list of delinquent taxpayers, there are people on that list who have died in the last year. You can’t get blood out of a stone, meaning that money can’t be collected from a deceased person. In these cases, the town needs to wait for the property to be repossessed or purchased to collect on the funds in the lien.
As for others on the list, some may be so financially strapped that they are waiting for their federal tax returns so they can pay their town property taxes plus the 18 percent interest.
Prior to the tax lien notices, there is an Unredeemed Tax Lien notice of arrearage sent out encompassing everything that is overdue for multiple years.
There are approximately 245 liens, 40 less than last year, going out for 2016 taxes in Raymond and being sent to mortgagees or anyone who has interest in the property. It takes two years to deed the property before the town can take over the property.
According to Raymond Tax Collector Sharon Wall, of the total $1.5 million unpaid taxes, $1,268,858 is residential while $231,142 is commercial/industrial, and of the 2016 unpaid taxes, $488,212 is residential while $88,139 is commercial/industrial.
That leaves $780,646 residential and $143,003 commercial taxes in the arrears from prior years.
Just because taxes are not being paid at the town office by property owners does not mean Raymond town employees and officials are corrupt.
On a good note, the town collected $20,846,106 in property tax revenues for 2016, and the 10 highest paying commercial landowners and residential landowners are current on their taxes. (Ref. 2016 Annual Report page 99).
Residents should stop wasting town employees’ time and taxpayer dollars on foolish RSA 91-A requests. Anyone who doesn’t like the way the town is run and wants answers or wants to complain should volunteer for a board and learn the process of how a town is financed and managed.
If you have not volunteered for the board of selectmen, budget committee, planning board, CIP or another town board and learned how to work with others to make changes, then you don’t have a leg to stand on with frivolous complaints.
And if you don’t like living in Raymond, you can always move out.