February 10. 2013 12:16AM

7 elected officials late paying Manchester bills

New Hampshire Sunday News

MANCHESTER - Two city aldermen who also serve as state representatives each owed the city coffers more than $10,000 in overdue property taxes, sewer charges or both last week, according to a Sunday News review of tax records.

The newspaper found three Manchester aldermen and four school board members with outstanding balances totaling more than $22,600.

After the Sunday News contacted the seven elected officials, the city Tax Collector's Office received payments from four of them, erasing their outstanding balances.

"All of us who own property, we try to pay our bills, should pay our bills, and if we don't, then we pay a penalty no matter who we are," Tax Collector Pat Harte said. Bills are slapped with interest charges of either 12 or 18 percent annually, depending how long bills are overdue.

Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw said she and her mortgage company agreed on a mortgage modification that called for her mortgage company to pay all back property taxes and overdue wastewater bills, but apparently hadn't sent the city a check. On Friday, Shaw's balance surpassed $10,700, including about $1,100 in interest charges. Her delinquent sewer bills date back to 2009.

"I'm not an Annie Kuster that's got $2 million in the bank that hasn't paid their taxes," Shaw, a state representative, said last week. "I have nothing."

Kuster, elected to Congress last November, and her husband made news last week after it became known that they were late on six straight property tax payments totaling nearly $40,000 in property taxes for their Hopkinton home and also owed $3,851 on a home in Jackson that they own and rent out. The family last week paid off their outstanding balances. Kuster, in personal financial disclosure forms, listed assets in the $2 million range.

The other alderman/state representative owing the city money was Ward 8's Tom Katsiantonis. He said he mailed a check Tuesday to the city to cover his outstanding tax bill of nearly $10,400, which included his last three property bills and about $740 in interest charges.

Katsiantonis said the city notified him of his overdue bills, but he said he was locked in a dispute with his bank.

"The bank's playing a lot of games, so I had to go after them," he said.

He said he wasn't aware of Kuster's tax situation and said he couldn't wait any longer to pay the city.

"I don't like to owe stuff," he said. "Now, everything is solved."

Harte said the city on Friday had 2,114 properties delinquent on taxes totaling $9.8 million. It also had 2,264 overdue wastewater accounts totaling nearly $1.6 million. Neither amount included outstanding interest charges. The city counted 32,275 land parcels as of the most recent tax bill due last December, she said. There are fewer wastewater accounts, 24,871 as of last June, according to the city's Environmental Protection Division.

Using those figures, about 9 percent of wastewater accounts are delinquent and 6.5 percent of parcels have overdue property taxes.

For the year ending last June 30, the city collected nearly $1.02 million in interest charges on overdue property taxes and an additional $335,852 in interest on delinquent wastewater bills, Harte said.

Ward 11 school board member Jason Cooper owes $666.63 in overdue wastewater bills and interest dating back to last April.

"Money's tight and will be brought up to date by midspring," Cooper said, after initially saying he would pay "certainly before I decide to run again."

Ward 10 school board member John Avard chalked up his late payments to "procrastination."

"I'm not not paying," Avard said. "Life has gotten in my way."

With the help of a Sunday News reporter, Avard paid his $369.13 balance online, using a credit card.

"I paid; there it is," Avard said.

"I don't know if anybody should be held to a lesser standard, whether elected or a voter," Avard said. "We have services. Without paying for those services, those services won't be able to be rendered to other people."

Several other officials said they weren't aware they owed the city money.

At-large school board member Kathy Staub said she didn't know she had overdue wastewater charges.

"There might be an error on the bill or might be an error when you write the check," she said. "These things happen."

"I can assure you the Staub family is not trying to defraud the city of Manchester of $23.57 plus 8 cents interest," Staub said.

Ward 8 school board member Erika Connors said the 509 Corning Road property is an investment property purchased in October, and she didn't know she owed $38.28 on her real estate bill plus 53 cents interest.

"We hadn't received any bill or anything from the city even notifying us," she said.

After inquiring at the Tax Collector's Office, Connors said: "It's a small error is what happened." She said at the mortgage closing, her property taxes were estimated before the tax rate was set.

"We paid early and that's what happened," Connors said.

Connors said she paid the outstanding balance Thursday afternoon.

Ward 10 Alderman Phil Greazzo said he hadn't received a notice that he owed $434.39 in delinquent sewer charges, including $25.68 in interest.

"That's news to me," said Greazzo, who paid the bill Thursday. "I'll have to go down and see what it is."

Asked whether elected officials should be held to a higher standard, Greazzo said: "We should all be held to the same standard. Everybody should be paying their bills."

Shaw said she was working on improving her personal finances.

"I'm sorry to my constituents, but it is what it is," she said. "To me, it's a story of the times, I guess, but I'm doing my best to resolve the situation and, hopefully, it's not going to occur again in the future."