Good afternoon. During my campaign I have discussed the very important issues and challenges facing Torrington and the next Mayor. They include economic development, education and the city’s infrastructure. But today I am here to talk about an issue that has made a lot of news lately and that is the situation with the Tax Collector. I am here to tell the voters of Torrington that as Mayor I will seek to hold a referendum in which the voters themselves decide how we should collect their taxes.
As we all know Torrington is the only town or city in Connecticut that has a private tax collector. While there are some who do not like to refer to him as a “private” tax collector, he is however a private person who has a contract with the City to perform a public function; namely the collection of taxes. He is not a public employee; he is not subject to the same discipline and accountability that all city employees are subject to.
Over the past few weeks we have discovered that:
- 953 taxpayers are owed over $200,00 in overpayments
- Many people have had great difficulty in dealing with the Tax Collector’s office
including just trying to obtain a small refund that is owed them
- The City has been sued by Mr. Crovo over the issue of overpayments; in response the City
Council has authorized up to $20,000 for a deposition; all at taxpayers’ expense
- Because of these serious issues, the City Council has approved up to $99,000, again taxpayer money, for a forensic audit, the second such audit in the past three years
believe that the people who pay our city’s taxes should be the ones who decide how their taxes should be collected. Whether it is public or private, let the voters decide.
As Mayor one of my first acts will be to ask the City Council to form a Charter Review Commission to deal with one and only one issue: Whether or not to change the present system of how the city’s taxes are collected. I want this commission to do a full review and analysis;
what are the costs and benefits of the present system, what are the costs and benefits of going to a public system including its startup costs. The commission should also look beyond the financial aspect of this issue including whether the present system serves the taxpayers well; are taxpayers treated fairly and honestly, does it breed distrust in our city government.
The commission should do an exhaustive report which presents all the arguments for both private and public. If need be, the city should spend the money necessary to get expert advice to assist the commission. This issue is too important to have a report that is not comprehensive and thorough. The City Council should then vote to submit this question to the voters.
Let us have an open and honest debate about this issue; let’s hear all the facts, let’s hear all the arguments and then let the voters decide. We trust the voters to elect a Mayor, we should trust them to make the right decision on this issue.
I would note that my opponent, as Chair of the last Charter Review Commission last year, voted against submitting this issue to the voters. I think that was a mistake.
Lastly, I want to comment on what I think about this system. I don’t think the job of collecting taxes should be done by a private person or business. For Mr. Crovo or anyone doing his job to
make a profit, he needs taxpayers to be late in paying their bill. That bears repeating: a private tax collector wants people and businesses to be late, that’s how they make their money. I have a fundamental problem with that.
However, a tax collector who is a city employee doesn’t want the taxpayer to be late; they want the taxpayer to pay what they owe, when they owe it. Additionally the present system breeds distrust in our city government. We cannot have a system in which people do not trust that their taxes will be collected fairly or believe that they will be treated fairly. That’s not good and that is what we have been hearing from our residents over the past few weeks and actually over
the past few years.
As Mayor I promise to bring accountability and transparency to city government. The present tax collector system is neither accountable nor transparent to the taxpayers. Here’s a quote from my opponent from two weeks ago about the new forensic audit: “For anybody that has followed the city’s relationship with the tax collector, this isn’t the first attempt to get an audit of the tax collector’s business and tax records. “We are always at the mercy of what information the tax collector was willing to release to us.”** That’s an amazing comment and shows another fundamental problem with this system: the City shouldn’t be and can’t be at the mercy of any person; especially the tax collector.
For once and for all, let’s let the voters decide on how the City should collect its taxes.
**Source: “Complaints to City Officials Heard for Years”, Waterbury Republican-American, October 8, 2013