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10,000 unpaid vehicle tax notices causes jam at City Hall
Warwick Beacon photo
IN THE SLOW LANE: Motor vehicle owners line up to pay their taxes Friday at the City Hall Annex.

There’s nothing like a small slip of blue paper to get people riled up, especially if it tells them they won’t be able to register any car if they haven’t paid the outstanding city taxes on one or more cars. What gets them angrier is when they paid the taxes and they still get a notice.

Since 10,000 or so notices went in the mail about two weeks ago, lines at the Warwick Tax Collectors office have been 15 and 20 deep. On some days double that, and backed out the door of the City Hall Annex.

The exception was last Tuesday, shortly after 11. At that time only about five people were in line – the diehards – that had no idea when, or if, they would ever get to pay their taxes. The problem was, the computer system was down. While the city could have accepted payments and posted them when the system was back on line, the staff thought it better to wait. Fortunately, the system was up and running in a half-hour.

What’s caused a lot of frustration is that the blue notices don’t indicate how much in taxes is due, or for that matter, the vehicle they are due on.

“It’s got to be my boat trailer,” said Keith LaChapelle, holding up his notice as the line inched forward on Friday. His guess is that he probably owes $5 to $10 in taxes on the 12-foot trailer.

“You know you can go online and pay there,” the man in front of him observed.

“You know what,” LaChapelle responded, “I don’t trust online. I want a receipt.”

The man offering the advice, however, had also chosen to stand in line. He owns three cars and a truck. City taxes hadn’t been paid on the truck, so he was fearful that he wouldn’t be able to renew the registration on any of the vehicles unless he paid up.

“I just want to get it done,” he said.

According to those who handle the payments, some taxpayers have less than kind things to say.

City Tax Collector and Assessor Kenneth Mallette understands the frustration, he said, especially when taxpayers have already paid the tax. It’s understandable that the notices don’t apply in some cases, given the amount of time between compilation of the delinquent taxes and issuing of the notices.

“It’s a function of the state and the city,” Mallette says.

He explained that the city provides the state with a list of unpaid vehicle taxes in October. It’s not until late December that the state returns the blue notices. The city then compares these to its list of made payments, providing a tape to the registry.

Mallette said that initial tape knocked about 2,500 off the due list. Then after the mailing – every 10 days or two weeks – an additional 500 to 1,000 names are purged from the list as payments are made. Mallette said he has maximized the staff handling payments in an effort to expedite the process. Nonetheless, he said, “We did create a backlog of complaints.”

Also, those looking to make sewer and water payments are separated from the rest of the line. Mallette has also seen an increase in those payments since issuing notices to delinquent water and sewer users that their property will go up for sale on May 8 unless they pay or make a payment arrangement. A total of 2,500 property owners owe $3.2 million in unpaid fees. In addition, 1,500 owe $2.3 million in unpaid sewer assessments. These properties will also be listed in the May 8 sale if not paid.

11 comments on this item

If the city actually did what they said they were going to do and charged a "connect capable fe"e to homeowners that have access to but refuse to connect to the sewers many of these people wouldn't be having their homes sold out from under them. Too few people carrying the burden for the sewers right now.

I never received a tax bill last year for my 2 vehicles, I received the blue slip for one car and not the other, I called and they sent a copy of the bill and all of a sudden the taxes for both vehicles are being assessed to 1 car. Registering my cars this year should be interesting!

patientman, I agree with you about the sewer taxes but all it takes is having a state Rep like McNamara trying to pass extensions for himself and neighbors in Gov Francis and making these types of assessments mean nothing if you don't have someone with personal interest involved.

i sent in my check back in the beginning of Jan still hasnt been cashed..called City Hall last monday Was told They have it and that they are behind ...They want want want their Money ..but they seem to not want to put it in the Bank ..what is up with that ??

They need to get rid of the people they have working there & hire all new staff & train them to do their job the right way!!

I had the same experience at the beginning of February - I was told that I couldn't register my cars because my taxes hadn't been paid. I had to take time out of work to go to City Hall and was told by the worker that the issue was that my January taxes hadn't been paid. I told her that they most certainly had - the check had been sent in time for January 15th receipt and that it hadn't been cashed yet! She told me that a 6-8 week backlog to cash the checks was standard. Standard? That's pathetic. I'd love to see me take an extra 6-8 weeks to send in my check - I'll bet they'd have an issue with that!

Warwick is RI second largest city. It takes 4-6 weeks to cash my checks every time. No offense but. this tax department needs a new head who is an actual administrative professional with experience, and actually capable to implement efficiency. This is why RI population was the only one to see a decline, we have among the highest taxes, to pay for this crap? Shameful. This should not be the "USSR 2.0"

This is unacceptable...this money should be processed in the system & deposited in the Bank EVERY Friday ...If you cant get your work done...hire more people !!!

@scooter, you dont need more people. I worked on an efficiency project with a real professional whereby the administrative volume went up by double, and we did it with half the people (not replacing those who left/retired no one was let go). It was a matter of looking at the work flow (and knowing what you are looking at) and implementing professionally developed changes. No one is evil here, but they need to get out of the old school mentality. Its been this way for the many, many years.

The mentality of Ken Mallette and government workers is that taxpayers are here to pay for government. Not that the government is meant to serve the people. This is a Rhode Island mentality, and it goes a long way in explaining why Warwick had more people living here fourty years ago.

It is truly amazing that you people have time to complain on this website but fail to show up at city hall for council meetings. On Monday March 11th ar 7pm we will be dicussing the 660 million dollars of unfunded debt that the city pension plans have. Wait until you see what that does to your tax b.ill.

Fenceman, I'll be out of town working. But I'm pretty sure that our taxes will go up the way they do every year. And the 500-600 jobs cut at met life aren't going to help.

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