David Cassetti, the Republican candidate for mayor of Ansonia, has made the recent increase in the city’s tax rate the hallmark issue of his campaign.
While doing so, three companies he owns owed the city more than $15,000 in real estate and motor vehicle taxes that were overdue as of Aug. 1.
Asked by the Valley Indy Wednesday about the back taxes, Cassetti said he had been shorthanded in his office and intended to pay them in full soon.
Within a few hours, Cassetti called the Valley Indy and said he had made a payment toward the back taxes and would pay the rest of the money owed Thursday (Sept. 19).
Most of the taxes owed were for the current year’s tax bills, half of which is due July 1 and half of which is due Jan. 1.
The taxes are considered delinquent after 30 days — or Aug. 1, for the payments due July 1.
Birm-I Construction Company, LCC, which Cassetti founded and owns, owed the city $3,808.38 in delinquent property taxes, according to the city’s online tax database.
Of that total, $1,666.74 was due Jan. 1, 2013 and has been delinquent since Feb. 1, 2013.
The rest has been delinquent since Aug. 1, 2013.
The company also owed the city $6.056.41 in motor vehicle taxes on 22 vehicles considered delinquent since Aug. 1, 2013.
Another company Cassetti said he owns, Valley Contractor and Supply Company, LLC, was about six weeks late on a $1,615.63 tax bill.
A third company owned by Cassetti, SALJD Riverside Properties, LLC, owed $4,612.58.
All told, Cassetti’s three companies had $16,093 owed in delinquent taxes as of Wednesday, according to the city’s online tax database.
Alderman Edward Adamowski, a Democrat from the First Ward, brought the back taxes to the Valley Indy’s attention Tuesday after he said he was told about the delinquencies by a concerned constituent.
Reached by the Valley Indy early Wednesday afternoon, Cassetti said he is paying his taxes.
“We’re in the process of paying that,” he said. “We have the money for it. I’ve just been inundated with work and a little shorthanded in the office, but they’re all going to be paid.”
About three hours later Cassetti showed the Valley Indy a receipt for a $1,615.63 payment made toward the Valley Contractor and Supply taxes, and said he’d pay up the rest Thursday — $14,477.37.
Asked if he thought the delinquent taxes would reflect poorly on his campaign, Cassetti said no.
“I’m sure there’s some (Democrats) that are delinquent in their taxes, but I’m not stooping that low,” Cassetti said. “I want to talk about the issues, that’s what I want to talk about. Everything will be paid. We’re in the process of doing it.”
Cassetti said the city owes him about $9,000 for work his company did last year installing conduit for new lights on Main Street that were recently installed by United Illuminating.
The tax issue angered Cassetti’s supporters Wednesday.
John Marini, a Republican Alderman and the chairman of the Republican Town Committee, said the issue was “gutter politics.”
“I think it shows a desperate party that will do anything to stay in power,” Marini said. “He’s several weeks late. My guess is a lot of residents throughout the city are several weeks late.”
“Of course you should be up to date on your taxes, of course you should be paying,” Marini went on. “(But) this isn’t an example of someone who hasn’t paid their taxes for years and years and years. What this is about is a business owner that’s struggling like everybody else.”
“Tomorrow you should see all the receipts, and I’m going to make sure that happens,” Marini said. “He’s going to have all the information to show that everything’s been paid.”
“It’s kind of shocking to see that the actual candidates themselves would sink to that depth and point fingers like that,” Marini said. “It’s just not appropriate, it’s disgusting.”
‘They Brought This Up’
Adamowski countered that it was a Republican, Alderman Phil Tripp, who last February first brought up the idea of the city barring anyone from serving on the city’s boards or commissions who owed back taxes.
Click here to read the minutes of the Aldermen’s meeting where the topic came up during a discussion of several appointments the Aldermen were considering. Tripp’s comments come up on page 34, under the “Appointments” heading.
Adamowski himself revived the idea about six months later, during an Aldermen’s discussion of the fallout from revelations uncovered by the Valley Indy that the city’s former tax collector had improperly given tax clearance documents to people who hadn’t paid motor vehicle taxes. Click the play button on the video to see his remarks.
“I don’t see where the gutter politics come in,” Adamowski said. “This is factual stuff. This is not something that anybody’s making up. They brought this up. I guess it’s just because it’s us that it’s bad politics.”
“I’m quite certain that if it was me that owed thousands of dollars in back taxes it would be all over the newspapers,” Adamowski went on.
The tax collection rate has been an issue in Ansonia for some time. Tripp and Alderman Jerome Fainer talked about the issue at length during that public meeting in February 2012. They specifically inquired about public officials — either elected or appointed — who may owe taxes. The thought was — how can someone play a role in government if they themselves aren’t paying into the system?
Then, last summer, a story revealed the city’s former tax collector was issuing receipts saying some city officials or employees had paid their taxes — when they had not.
“If you’re running for public office, you should have your taxes paid on time, or if you’re appointed to a board or anything like that,” Adamowski said this week. “My side should be paid up too. If there’s somebody on our side of the slate that owes back taxes, they should pay them.”
Eileen Krugel, the chairwoman of the Democratic Town Committee, said “it’s too bad” that Cassetti’s companies owed back taxes.
“Obviously people that do pay their taxes, and struggle to pay their taxes, it doesn’t sit well when people who claim to be successful businessmen don’t pay their taxes,” Krugel said.
“I try to make sure our team is up to date, but sometimes people have financial difficulties,” Krugel added. “None of us like (paying taxes).”