Taxing times for commish
November 7, 2007
ASPEN Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper narrowly escaped a tax lien sale on the trailer she shares with her husband by paying more than $1,500 in delinquent taxes on Wednesday.It would have been the fourth time since 2002 that the Clappers failed to pay property taxes. In 2006, the couple payed more than $6,000 in back taxes to avoid the possible loss of their home, county officials said. If the Clappers had not paid by the 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline, their property taxes would have gone to a public sale scheduled at 9 a.m. Thursday at the county courthouse.When contacted her about the late payment, Clapper, who was traveling in California, said she was surprised.”I knew nothing about this. I’ve gotta call my husband,” she said. Minutes after the call about 3 p.m. Wednesday, Thomas Clapper hurried to the Pitkin County treasurer’s office with a check for $1,510.58 in delinquent 2006 taxes, officials said.”We just never got a notice that we know of,” the commissioner later said.Patti Clapper said taxes on her Smuggler Trailer Court residence are complex, with separate checks going for the vehicle and another to the property.”I payed one, and I gave the other to Tommy,” she said.Even so, the Clappers have a recent history of tax problems, according to county officials. “They were delinquent on four years of property tax,” said Pitkin County treasurer Tom Oken.Savers Trust, a Durango company, paid the couple’s taxes and sewer fees in three separate tax sales from 2002 until 2006, Oken said. When a homeowner does not pay property taxes, anyone can bid on a property in the annual November tax sale.Investors earn 15 percent on their investment when homeowners pay their back taxes. And if another person or a company pays a homeowner’s taxes for three years in a row, on the fourth year they can take possession of the property, officials said.It wasn’t until Nov 3, 2006 – just before the Clappers could have lost their home – that they payed some $6,648 in back taxes, interest and fees, Oken said.”[Losing the property] may have been threatened because in November of 2006, all of those taxes were redeemed,” Oken said.Full tax seizures on pricey Pitkin County properties are rare, Oken said.Asked about unpaid taxes from 2002 to 2006, Clapper said: “We paid it all at one time. That’s when Tommy was out of work. We ended up making it all up. We just had a downturn in our family financial situation.”Clapper, a commissioner since 1998, earns $72,500 annually, and Thomas Clapper works in construction. Typically, treasury officials send notification of a late payment of January taxes in July of the same year. Then in September delinquent homeowners receive a call before a notice about late payment is published in local papers – this year Oct. 7 in the Aspen Times Weekly.”It bothered me horribly,” Clapper said of finding out that her taxes were late, something she called a “human mistake.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.