Trumbull seeks state guidance on property taxes

TRUMBULL — Town residents are facing a tax deadline that, so far, isn’t being eased by the coronavirus fallout.

The next quarterly property tax payment is due Wednesday with a one-month grace period before interest charges begin accruing May 2.

“This is going to become an issue for Trumbull before it does for many other towns, because we pay our taxes quarterly instead of biannually,” said First Selectman Vicki Tesoro.

With the impact the coronavirus and in-home quarantine efforts have had on the economy, the ability of many people to pay their taxes could be in question, she said. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act recently passed by Congress contains language protecting homeowners from foreclosure and renters from eviction, but real estate taxes are not included in the package and are controlled at the state level.

Adding to the problem, Tesoro said, is that like residents, municipalities still must pay their bills.

“Our workforce is the same, everybody is still on the job,” Tesoro said. “Police, public works are on the job. The parks department is working, even though it’s staggered shifts to make it a little safer. Everyone is working remotely where possible. We haven’t laid anyone off, and we don’t intend to.”

Tesoro notified Trumbull’s legislative delegation Sunday afternoon in a group email to state representatives David Rutigliano, R-123rd, Laura Devlin, R-134th, and Ben McGorty, R-122nd, and state Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-22nd.

“We have payments due on April 1. Interest charges do not begin until (May 2),” she wrote. “Although there is still over a month before that will occur, I am already receiving requests from residents to put forward an initiative to forgive any interest on late payments and to possibly defer payments.”

Tesoro pointed out that towns do not have the authority to change due dates or waive interest and fees, and that although Gov. Ned Lamont has issued a series of executive orders related to coronavirus, none has addressed municipal taxes.

“Do you know if there are any discussions in Hartford about municipal tax relief?” she asked. “Because we pay our taxes quarterly in Trumbull and not semi-annually as many town and cites do, this may not be on the radar yet, but our taxpayers will begin to be penalized if they can’t meet their tax obligations by 5/2.”

Rutigliano later told Tesoro that a proposal to waive or change the penalties for late tax payments was on its way to Lamont.

“It’s on the top of the list,” he said.

But with tax bills due in a matter of days, Tesoro said she hoped for some guidance soon. Even a decision leaving it up to municipalities would be helpful, she said.

“Under ordinary circumstances, you don’t want towns to have different rules, where one town waives fees and one doesn’t, one town extends the deadline and one doesn’t,” she said.

But with businesses shuttered all over town and many others doing a fraction of their normal business, and with the resulting layoffs and reduction in hours for employees, these are hardly ordinary circumstances, she said.