Ferrisburgh debates how tax collector is paid

FERRISBURGH — A tie vote at the Ferrisburgh Town Meeting on Tuesday resulted in the death of a selectboard proposal to change the way the town will pay delinquent tax collector Chet Hawkins.
Before a 58-58 paper-ballot vote left Hawkins’ tax collector pay as it has been, debate at the Ferrisburgh Central School gym lasted for about 20 minutes.
Officials said in the past year, Hawkins collected about $206,000 in delinquent taxes and was paid about $17,000 to do so, with his pay coming from interest penalties on the late taxes.
The selectboard’s proposed budget included a $3,000 line item for a collector’s salary, while recent budgets included a $14,000 line item, an amount offset by revenue collected in the course of Hawkins’ work.
Selectboard Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said the selectboard proposed the change because it would be remiss if it did not seek more money for the town.
“We feel, ‘Why not have the revenue go right to the town and pay someone to do it?’” Lawrence said.
Some residents questioned if there would be enough incentive for future collectors.
“It seems to be a pretty steep cut from $17,000 to $3,000,” said Rick Kerschner, adding that he wondered if future collectors would “really get out there” without the percentage incentive.
Selectman Jim Warden said other towns, including Charlotte, which pays its collector $4,000, are in line with the selectboard proposal, and that most reported the job involved just a few hours a month.
Hawkins himself said the pay would be reasonable, but only if the selectboard agreed that the town would pick up all related costs, including postage, paying for legal fees and advertising pending tax sales. Hawkins said he has been doing all the work himself, saving the town legal fees.
Lawrence said it was “a part of the plan” that the town would pick up such expenses, but one resident noted that the article did not specify that arrangement, and Hawkins said it had not been promised to him.
“You never talked to me about it, so I wasn’t aware of that,” Hawkins said.
When ballots were cast, moderator Don Bicknell announced the tie, and said without a majority, the article would fail and the status quo prevail.

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