Dixfield Town Manager Dustin M. Starbuck. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)

DIXFIELD — Three months into his new job as town manager, Dustin M. Starbuck is trying to get a handle on unpaid property taxes and recover that revenue before the new fiscal year begins.

Twenty-two properties have been taken because taxes on them have not been paid for at least three years. The amount owed totals about $150,000. Ten of the properties are vacated and bids for them will be opened by selectmen Nov. 26.

The other 12, which are occupied, will be put up for bid, if owners have not made payment arrangements before Nov. 26. Those bids will be opened in December.

Another 40 properties could be foreclosed on by the town in December because taxes have not been paid for at least three years.

“Some will pay, but even with 30, that’s properties without revenue to the town,” Starbuck said this month.

He advised the board Sept. 24 that no one has been making payments. “There haven’t been any official contracts or payment plans arranged. They’ve all been verbal, at best. The last one I could find was back in 2013 …”

Resident Dan McKay asked who made the verbal arrangements.

Starbuck said he didn’t know. Because it’s verbal, there isn’t a record.

McKay asked who is assigned to see that taxes are paid, and if not, to follow up.

Starbuck said it should be his responsibility. He took over in August from Carlo Puiia, who was town manager the past four years.

“I wasn’t here, so I don’t see anything productive in blaming someone. It doesn’t really matter. All I can do is help going forward,” Starbuck said.

“I honestly suspect that some of these properties, the owners will come up with the cash, then we won’t see payments from them for two or three years, until we do it again,” he said.

People behind on their taxes need to at least make a legitimate effort, he said. “Don’t come in and pay a dollar. But if they’re paying something and we’re at least making some progress, or not falling further behind, the goal is not to be throwing people out. But people need to (pay their taxes).”

He said, “The main thing with the board is that they want this to be fair, both to the people who are having their property sold, and fair to the townspeople.”

Starbuck said, “I’ve already had two individuals come in and said they received the letter saying that if they don’t come up with the money by a date in December, then it could go up for auction. One will be coming in to pay the full amount, while another is asking for a payment plan agreement, he said.

Starbuck said he would like to recover much of the uncollected taxes before the next fiscal year begins.

“Let’s say we collect all the extra money,” he said. “There’s a couple things we could do. One, we could rebate it back to the citizens,” or maybe lower the tax rate or provide some additional services people want or need.

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