Friends pitch in to help couple hit by hard times in Boscawen
BOSCAWEN — Trapped in the unforgiving vice of medical expenses, job loss and disability, down-on-their-luck couple Stephen and Cindy DelBene found themselves unable to pay taxes owed on their home.
Things only got worse. The town took ownership of their double-wide trailer at 5 Corn Hill Road last month for failure to pay back taxes.
Their luck changed last month when close friend, Susan Burns of Litchfield, gave the couple a check for $4,941.13 to pay off three years of back taxes plus 18 percent interest and fees.
“Even though they were making their payments, they would never had been able to catch up because the interest and fees associated with their late payments were far more than their taxes were,” Burns said of the DelBenes.
Stephen DelBene, 52, who works for the city of Concord’s highway department, paid off the back taxes last week and ownership of their home reverted back to him and his wife.
Now, the DelBenes want to fix up their home so they can sell it and move closer to Burns. Burns has offered to care for Cindy, 52, who suffered a disabling head injury in May, 2012. “Her memory is not good. She can’t drive because she doesn’t remember how to get anywhere,” Burns explained.Cindy suffered a severe concussion when her porch railing collapsed and she tumbled head first to the ground. She spent three months in a hospital and rehabilitation center. As a result, Cindy no longer can work at the Concord medical facility where she was a receptionist. She is seeking to become qualified for Social Security Disability income.
“They have his income, but they are really drowning in all of their bills,” Burns said of mounting bills and health care expenses.To help her friends prepare their house for sale, Burns set up The DelBene Charity Fund at TD Bank. Check or cash donations may be made at any TD Branch. Checks also may be made out to the account and mailed to TD Bank, Attention: Melinda Downs, 191 Main St., Nashua 03060.Burns also is hosting a yard sale June 27-28 at her 500 Charles Bancroft Highway, Litchfield home. All proceeds will benefit the DelBenes, she said. Burns asked anyone with items to donate to contact her at 603-234-5937. She will pick up the items.
In addition, Burns and friend, Shelly Kenney, are hosting a 50/50 raffle on July 4 to benefit the DelBenes. To buy tickets, contact Kenney at 603-361-8247 or Burns.Steve DelBene — who said he has been in arrears on his taxes dating back to 2006 — admitted he ignored the March 28 letter from the town’s tax collector saying it would take over the deed to his property for non-payment of three years of taxes. The letter stated a tax deed would be issued if he didn’t pay the third year — or fiscal year 2010 — taxes by May 7. The amount owed was $891.23.
“I didn’t even know what the $891 was for,” Steve DelBene explained in a recent telephone interview. He admitted he never contacted the town to find out.
It was only when he stopped at the Town Hall last month to make a payment on his back taxes that he learned the town now owned his property and the only way he could reclaim it was to pay the full three years’ in back taxes plus interest and fees. “Things were tight. I totally understand everybody should pay their taxes. The only gripe I got is .... if you are going to come down hard on me, you’ve got to come hard on everybody,” Steve DelBene said. DelBene said another property who owed far more than him was given a waiver by selectmen while his property was deeded.
“I don’t want favorable treatment. I just want everything to be fair,” DelBene added.
Town Administrator Michael D. Wright explained the property owner in question — an elderly husband, who is disabled, and his wife — have been making consistent $400 monthly payments and sold one parcel of land to help pay off their taxes. They owe a total $14,631 dating back three years.
“He has made very concrete steps to bring his debt under control,” Wright explained of the elderly couple.Wright said tax payers who are three years behind in their taxes must be notified the town can take over their property for non-payment of taxes. Steven and Cindy DelBene were among 33 property owners who received notice of deed in March warning them that they must pay fiscal year 2010 taxes or the town would take the deed to their parcels.Most paid by the May 7 deadline, Wright said. Selectmen deeded nine parcels and waived the taking of deeds on two.
To date, all but four of the seven deeded parcels have paid their taxes — including the DelBenes.
Selectmen waived taking the DelBene’s deed in 2009 because they had been making payments and the total due was about $380, Wright said.
While DelBene was on a payment plan for his 2010 taxes, he had not been making the required payments and sometimes stop making payments, Wright said.
“It wasn’t like he wasn’t trying. He just didn’t have the resources to make that happen,” Wright said. “To recover after a period of several months when you are already under a plan where you haven’t been paying for a while...you need to come forward with a plan that shows you’re trying to address the debt before the deeding process,” Wright said.Selectmen, he said, are willing to work with property owners in trouble, but they often don’t approach the board until they are so far behind there is little selectmen can do to help them.“These are our neighbors. We don’t want to be landlords. We don’t want property. But, at the same time, we have an obligation to other taxpayers (who do pay their taxes),” Wright said.