UPDATE, 9:32 p.m. 12/3: The drive-thru tax window at the Gloucester Township Municipal Building will be open each Friday prior to the Dec. 18 accelerated tax sale for payments by those property owners included on the tax sale list.
No other tax payments will be accepted on Friday, Dec. 7, or Friday, Dec. 14.
The municipal building is usually open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. and closed on Friday.
Gloucester Township property owners who have fallen behind on taxes have just 18 days to pay their bills in order to avoid being included in an accelerated tax sale next month.
The township's public tax sale is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 18, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
The 2012 accelerated tax sale list (see PDF to right) was recently published on the township website. The list includes more than 3,500 properties for which taxes had not been paid in full as of Nov. 19, as well as those with delinquent Gloucester Township Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) and Camden County MUA bills.
Property owners can pay their bills before the Dec. 18 accelerated tax sale to avoid having their delinquent taxes and MUA bills included in the auction. Payments must be in cash, certified check or money order. The tax office is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
An accelerated tax sale is a tool used by municipalities to achieve higher tax-collection rates.
Business Administrator Tom Cardis noted during Monday's Gloucester Township Council meeting that the township's collection rate has been "very close to 100 percent" since moving to the accelerated tax sale in the late 1990s.
Erial resident Ray Polidoro—chairman of the Gloucester Township Republican Municipal Committee—called on the township to work in a "little compassion" with its tax sale notices.
"Is there not anything that this township can do whether it's through the (tax collector's office) or MUA to show a little compassion for some of these folks that are very concerned? This number is growing," he said. "There are people that are having very, very tough times, and this is what they're getting in the mail."
Accelerated tax sales are held just before the end of a budget year. For Gloucester Township, which now operates on a calendar-year budget, that means accelerated tax sales typically are held in December.
Investors bid on tax debt at the auction-style tax sales, paying off the money owed to municipalities while charging interest of up to 18 percent on top of the original tax bill owed by the delinquent taxpayer.
"In the tax sales, we don't sell their home; we sell the lien," Tax Assessor Chuck Palumbo said. "Somebody buys the lien, the delinquency, and they pay the taxes for them and they just have a lien on their home."
Polidoro questioned the expediency with which the notices were mailed this year following the Nov. 13 fourth-quarter property tax deadline.
"That process has to start immediately after the November quarter because you have to have a four-week period of advertisements and notices" before the auction, Cardis responded.
Solicitor David Carlamere noted municipalities operating under accelerated tax sales can include all taxes due before Nov. 11 in support of calendar-year budgets.
Gloucester Township places legal notices with its tax sale list in its official newspapers twice before the auction, Cardis said. It also sends out two rounds of direct notices.