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Rindge takes out loan in anticipation of taxes

RINDGE — The town will take out a $1.5 million loan in anticipation of taxes this year to pay Cheshire County, after a series of mistakes forced the town to reset the 2012 tax rate and reprint its property tax bills.

The bills, which are normally mailed in November, went out to residents on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6, said Town Administrator Carlotta Lilback Pini in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript on Tuesday. As a result, Pini said the Select Board signed a tax anticipation note Monday afternoon, so while the town awaits payment from taxpayers it can pay the $1,735,986 bill to the county on time. The residents’ tax bills are now due on Jan. 7. But, Pini said, those residents who wish to take a real estate tax deduction must pay their property tax bill before the end of 2012.

The town’s unassigned fund balance is approximately $433,000, which includes $110,000 in 2011 surplus funds. Without a large enough surplus to pay the county and Jaffrey-Rindge School District bills, Pini said the town is borrowing $1.5 million at an interest rate of 1.89 percent for 60 days. Interest payments are expected to cost the town $5,725, which includes $1,000 for fees.

Pini said the town and the school district have had a flexible working relationship in recent years in an effort to avoid tax anticipation notes and that the district will accommodate the town by waiting a few weeks for its payment.

A number of issues led to the late mailing of the property tax bills, Pini said, including delays at the state’s Department of Revenue Administration in setting Rindge’s tax rate, as well as calculating mistakes on the part of town officials.

“The state has had budget cuts and reductions in staffing that have affected their operations,” Pini said. “There are fewer municipal auditors covering more towns now.”

Stephen Hamilton, director of the DRA’s property appraisal and municipal services divisions, said Wednesday that the DRA has had a significant reduction in staff over the past couple of years. Reduction in staff, however, has not had a dramatic impact on the DRA’s timeline for setting the tax rate in the 259 communities it serves, Hamilton said. “We had about a week late start compared to last year, but by about the ninth of November we had caught up to our pace of setting tax rates.”

Rindge was one of the 205 communities on Nov. 16 whose tax rates had been finalized, he said.

But the tax rate was set twice, Pini said. An error the first time was caused when a property had been double counted. While the error was fixed, the tax rate reset and the bills printed, Pini said a numerical error was later discovered on that printed bill — one of the numbers had been keyed in wrong.

“It was an unfortunate series of events that slowed down the process,” she said.

At a Select Board meeting on Dec. 5, an auditor met with town officials to discuss Rindge’s 2011 financial report. One of the recommendations made during the auditing process, Pini said, was that the town consider making its accountant position, which has been part-time since 2007, into a full-time position.

Having a full-time accountant could be of great value to the town, Pini said, and allow for greater staffing support during the busier times of the year, including tax rate and budget season.

The town’s accountant currently works 20-25 hours a week, but a full-time position would start at 32 hours a week, she said.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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