Highlands tax scofflaws' names to be posted online

| Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The list of Highlands School District tax delinquents that's soon to be published will be posted on the district's website, too, possibly on a regular basis.

The board agreed last week to put the list on its website as it discussed the details of publishing the list.

Board member Jon Love also suggested making the website posting part of the district's policies.

That would likely make it a regular if not permanent fixture on www.goldenrams.com.

Lisa Colautti, Highlands' solicitor, and Superintendent Michael Bjalobok will research other districts to see whether that has been done anywhere else.

Business Manager Jon Rupert said publication of the list in the Valley News Dispatch will occur in late January or early February.

Rupert said the deadline for delinquents to sign up for a payment plan with the district and prevent their names from being published is Dec. 20.

“We're up to 62 (payment) agreements already,” he said.

But the board rejected giving any further notice by either advertising in the newspaper or sending a letter to residents about publication of the list and the payment plan deadline.

“I don't agree with advertising again or sending out letters,” board member Laura Thimons said. “I think we're wasting money if we do that. The people who are delinquent know they are delinquent.”

Thimons suggested putting the delinquent list on the district's website and updating it at least once a month.

Board member Eric Miles said it would be “redundant” to give more notice and that publishing it and posting it on the website would be the most cost-effective way of informing the public.

“I believe we need the web and the (newspaper) insert and no further advertising,” he said.

The board agreed.

But there was no agreement on an idea put forth by board member Mike Masarik to include the tax delinquent list with the school district's activities calendar when it is mailed out in August.

He said doing that would be another way to inform the public. It would save money, because the calendar is sent out annually anyway.

Board President Carrie Fox said, “You want to send out a calendar about your kids' activities and you want to put in a list of tax delinquents with that? I'm sorry, but I think that's tacky.”

Board member Debbie Beale supported the idea, noting that without everyone paying their taxes as they are supposed to, there would be no way to finance those activities. But the idea didn't gain traction with the rest of the board.

That's when Love proposed making publication of the tax-delinquent list and posting it on the website a part of the district's policies. Some board members appeared to like the idea but were uncertain.

So the board asked Colautti and Bjalobok to look into what other districts are doing.

“Basically, what I was suggesting was that we have a policy to define how we publicize that list,” Love said. “We don't have to repeat how or whether we should publish again in two years or four years. It just becomes a matter of policy.”

He said by doing that, the board can avoid being accused of favoritism regarding tax delinquents.

“From what I have seen in the letters to the editor, there are people out there who view our board as treating some people differently than others,” Love said. “I don't think there is a conscious decision by the board to do that.

“If we put something like this into policy, then there is no question on how or why we do this.”

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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