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Two foreclosures vacated but tax collections ongoing


SHIRLEY — At the request of Town Collector Holly Haase, selectmen Monday night agreed to vacate foreclosure decrees on two properties now that the town has been paid in full.

With selectmen’s blessing, Haase has been moving aggressively on a backlog of unpaid tax bills that in some cases have ended up in land court and could lead to foreclosure.

The two properties in question, on Longley Road and Valley View Way, respectively, are now paid up, Haase said. The amount paid on the Longley Road property was $19,089.08 and the tax bill is now current through Dec. 31, Haase said. The Valley View Way property belongs to an estate and is also paid in full, adding another $5,287.13 to the tally.

In all, the town has collected a total of $82,754 in overdue taxes since the push began, Haase said, and a total of $171,471.88 with interest, fees and betterments included.

Further updating the board, Haase said that of four active foreclosures in progress, three of the bills have been cleared and she expects favorable action on the fourth.

In addition, five cases the town has pending in land court now are for unpaid taxes on vacant lots on Fredonian Street and Mt. Henry and Peabody roads. The Peabody Road property has an interested buyer with a title search ongoing. If purchased, the buyer must pay all back taxes and other amounts due to the town to clear the title.

Another property in land court now has been pending since 2013, with two more vacant lots to follow that have been on the tax taking list since 1978. Both are buildable lots, Haase said.

Of 24 properties recently added to the list, Haase said the total number is now down to 18 after some of the owners came in to pay their bills.

Chairman David Swain commended Haase, Principal Assessor Becky Boucher and interim Treasurer Janet Poitras for their diligent work, but Haase said they were not the only ones.

“So many were involved,” she said, including two senior tax work-off program participants who organized the files.

She also explained that the effort to collect back taxes is a work in progress, with an outstanding balance due of $807,238.

In other business, Town Accountant Bobbi Jo Colburn updated selectmen on the status of the town’s unfunded OPB or post retirement benefits liability, which is $4 million to date, down $1 million from previous years in which school system employees were included on the town payroll. Now, they are covered separately by the Ayer Shirley Regional School District.

At Colburn’s urging, Town Meeting several years ago set up an account to pay future retirees’ health insurance benefits but did not put any money into it, Swain said.

But an article on the Nov. 10 Special Town Meeting warrant seeks funding for a first installment, he said.

Colburn said it’s a good idea, since the state at some point will make such contributions mandatory.

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