Passaic Tax Collector Boasts Sending out Bills with “Brute Force”

8 08 2007

Meredith Mandell –

Passaic, NJ – At parties, she doesn’t dare tell people what she does for a living. She doesn’t have a degree in psychology and yet she listens to residents’ woes on a daily basis. She’s called upon to answer a bitter telephone call or two.

1774 Painting of The Sons of Liberty
tarring and feathering a tax collector
underneath the Liberty Tree.

She’s the city tax collector, and for Carrie Malak, pestering questions are just part of the job.

The tax bills were sent out last month and the flurry of telephone calls started coming into Malak’s office at City Hall soon after as the August 20 due date nears for just when residents need to pay their third-quarter bills.

This year’s municipal tax increase was 6 percent, which means that the owner of a home assessed at $134,100 , the city’s average, will pay $4,489.66 in municipal taxes for the year, compared with $4,208.058 last year, according to the tax assessor’s office.

“A big part of the job is smiling,” Malak said, joining Thomas Poalillo, the city’s tax assessor, in his office where the walls are covered with tables, charts and enough printouts filled with numbers to make one’s head spin. “You almost need a psychology degree.”

Malak’s office is across the hall and she said they work together often. She talks to people as they come in to write checks. Poalillo is the one who takes photographs and measures properties before determining an assessment. They both work together to explain the cumbersome world of New Jersey property taxes.

“I don’t think too many people are enamored with taxes,” said Poalillo, who spends his day at work constantly inspecting properties, helping to write tax appeals and figuring out deductions for veterans. “But some people need to be educated.”

Most people seem to forget that four components make up a resident’s tax bill — the county tax, municipal tax, school tax and county open space tax.

Poalillo said that residents usually make the mistake of multiplying their quarterly bill times four to arrive at what they pay yearly in taxes. Instead, they should multiply the total tax rate, in this case 5.6, which includes the four components, by the city’s assessed value of their homes, he said.

Residents, he said, also make the mistake of thinking all the money collected goes toward such things as paying the mayor, city employee salaries, and for police and fire services. In fact, he said, the money is split up four ways.

While Poalillo and Malak may have to play the tough guys, they also say there’s a soft spot in there hearts for the city’s residents — especially the elderly, who are most likely to frequent their office.

Malak and Poalillo said that residents should keep in mind that she and Poalillo don’t make up the rules: Everything they do follows state statute. If, for example, residents do not pay their tax bill within the grace period, she said there is no room for favors.

She boasts that she sends bills out with a “brute force” and has a nearly perfect record of collecting taxes. The city of Passaic has a 99.9 percent collection rate, one she notes is rare for an urban municipality such as Passaic.

“The line is: I would charge my own mother,” she said.

View original article here.




One response

14 08 2007

Brute Force? I didn’t know that by placing a bill in an envelope, putting a stamp on it and then mailing it via USPS is called Brute Force, it’s called mailing a letter. Sad that she would use such a tactic on her own mother.

Was this office involved in the Schennet Scandal where he paid his tax bill, the city forclosed and then sold it to former Passaic Councilman Wayne Alston?

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