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Published: 1/12/2005

Walbridge: Residents owe about $40,000 in village taxes

BY JACK BAESSLER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
THE TINY VILLAGE OF WALBRIDGE HAS FOUND IT IS OWED A TIDY SUM OF CASH.

The windfall recently started arriving in small increments - from individuals who haven't been paying the village's 1.5 percent income tax.

Tax revenue is trickling in from 50 residents who recently received letters saying they should pay what they owe. So far, the village has collected several thousand dollars, but hasn't kept an exact tally, said Patty Crawford, the village's tax commissioner.

Letters to 261 residents who appear to owe village income taxes are to go out next month, Mayor Dan Wilczynski said.

"Patty has been doing a great job identifying people who live in town and filed tax returns with the state [but not with the village]," Mayor Wilczynski said.

Ms. Crawford said it's difficult to estimate the worth of the uncollected revenue. "If I had to guess, I would think maybe $40,000," she said. "I think a lot of teenagers are on the list and don't realize it and need to file a return."

Others who owe are renters who have been more difficult to trace. A sizeable number are wage earners with steady jobs.

"There were quite a few on the list living in town for quite a few years," Ms. Crawford said. "The reality is I am looking at $40,000 to $45,000 and hoping for more."

The village of 2,500 residents collected $839,898 in income taxes last year from about 2,000 tax filers. A resident earning $20,000 a year would owe $300 in village income tax.

If Ms. Crawford's estimate is correct, the planned renovation of a building at Loop Park for a village senior center could be done in a year, rather than stretched out over three years, Mayor Wilczynski said.

Tracking down the tax revenue began last year after questions from the mayor arose about how the village knew it was receiving all it was owed.

Village officials started poking through state income tax records they acquired for about $150, checking the names of village residents who paid state income taxes against village tax return filings.

"You can pretty much go through the system and pick them out," Ms. Crawford said.

Those who haven't filed village returns are getting the letters. "I was amazed at the number of people who don't file village tax returns," the mayor said.

Some residents simply may not know the village has a tax. Until now, letters have not been sent to new residents about the tax, nor has there been mention in the village newsletter. That's about to change.

Letters to those who didn't file last year will go out next month informing them of the obligation to file by April 15 and asking if the village has mistakenly identified them as non-filers, the mayor said.

The village will try to work out payment plans on past unpaid amounts. There is a 1 percent penalty owed on the unpaid taxes, Ms. Crawford said.

"If you are living here, you are probably living next door to somebody paying their income taxes and you need to pay your fair share," the mayor said.



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