BARRE (CBS) – Where did the money go? That’s the question homeowners in the town of Barre are asking after being told they owe back taxes, bills they say they’ve already paid.
Jim Engel has spent more than fifty hours sorting through his files, looking for proof that he paid his property taxes.
And he isn’t the only one. Board of Selectman Chair Leif Ericson says there are hundreds of people like Jim who paid in cash, and were given generic receipts or nothing at all and now may have to pay again.
WBZ-TV’s Diana Perez reports
WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Doug Cope reports
Ericson says town officials realized how widespread the problem when the new tax collector was appointed in August and went through the records and sent out back due bills.
“We had a lot of people come in with paid receipts saying they had paid the bills but there were no records in the office so that was a concern.”
Ericson also says the last tax collector was elected to her position and held it for more than two decades but red flags didn’t start popping up until 2008, then again in 2009 and again in 2010.
“Till it got to the point where we had about one million dollars in uncollected real estate personal property and excise taxes.”
So where is the money? One theory floating around is that the old tax collector pocketed all of it.
But Ericson says there’s no proof of that, instead he offered this explanation, “During that time period we also switched our municipal software. We are leaning towards her not being competent with the software.”
As for Jim, he found his receipts for 2007 but his mortgage company picked up the rest of his back taxes to avoid foreclosing on his property.
For now Barre says it is conducting an internal investigation not a criminal one.
Ericson says there’s simply not enough proof that the old tax collector wasn’t just a poor record keeper so it’s still not clear if the money is missing or just misplaced.
Barre says it’s reached out to the Department of Revenue for a list of guidelines on how to deal with this situation.