900 face Friday tax sale

Auction is largest city has seen in recent years


It could be called the perfect storm of tax sales, although that’s of little consolation to the more than 900 Warwick property owners who face having a lien placed on their property this Friday.

That number, however, is about 150 property owners fewer than the 1,046 on the tax sale list as of last week, thanks to actions of the city administration yesterday. The city pulled those property owners who are delinquent in their sewer assessments from the sale.

In a release issued yesterday, the administration said the number of properties has “declined to a manageable number. The city, therefore, has chosen to be proactive and will work out payment schedules to the extent possible for those remaining properties.”

Ward 5 Councilman Edgar Ladouceur, who chairs the council sewer review commission, greeted the news enthusiastically. Ladouceur said he has been in contact with a couple of constituents who received notices their properties were up for sale because of unpaid sewer assessments. He contends the method of assessment, which is based on the linear footage, is unfair and should be revised to a unit cost.

“When you know something is wrong and very unfair, it should be changed,” he said.

Further, he added, it is unfair that people should be faced with having their property put up for auction because of an unfair system of sewer assessment.

But Ladouceur could not say what should be done for those who have paid their assessment. Should their assessments be recalculated, and should they receive a rebate, if the method is changed?

That’s not how Chief of Staff Mark Carruolo, who is also a member of Ladouceur’s commission, sees it.

“It just happens that Ladouceur made an inquiry,” Carruolo said. He said the decision to withdraw only those properties with delinquent assessments was made independent of the method of assessments.

“The bill is the bill,” he said.

In addition, the city release says the action “in no way means that any properties that are not made current would be exempt from a future tax sale.”

Regardless of the elimination of about 150 properties, this tax sale is one of the largest in recent history.

When first advertised, the sale was in excess of 2,700 properties. Since then, people have made payments or worked out payment plans, removing them from the list. That opportunity comes to an end today at 4:30 p.m. If an arrangement isn’t reached by then, the property will go up for auction starting at 10 a.m. Friday in Council Chambers.

Carruolo said that usually about 300 properties are listed for sale. He attributed this year’s higher number to a combination of the economy and the fact that people failing to pay their water and sewer usage bills being added to the list. Last year’s sale was limited to those who had failed to pay their real estate taxes.

David Olsen, city treasurer and acting tax collector, will run the sale in concert with Kenneth Mallette, who retired in July as tax collector and assessor.

“It’s an interesting business,” Olsen said of the sale.

Property is auctioned for the amount due in unpaid taxes or utilities. Olsen said as the property is announced, spotters look for the first among pre-registered bidders to raise a hand.

The winning bid is for the amount owed the city. After paying the city, the winner holds a lien on the property in the amount of the payment.

The owner can clear the lien by repaying the bidder, plus 10 percent, within six months. After that, the owner can still recover the property, however the interest rate increases by 1 percent per month, Olsen said.

If the owner hasn’t repaid the bidder after a year, Olsen said the bidder could initiate court action to foreclose on the property.

Olsen was unable to say how much the city aims to collect in unpaid property taxes and utilities in the sale.

“We haven’t run the totals yet,” he said.

The totals will be generated today.

Olsen expects council chambers will be filled for the sale, as even smaller sales have produced a full house.

But it’s not something he relishes.

“The best tax sale is no tax sale,” he said.

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