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City owed $7.6m in back taxes

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Below is an article from the May 13, 2004 Cambridge Chronicle
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City owed $7.6m in back taxes

By Deborah Eisner / Chronicle Staff
Thursday, May 13, 2004

Several former candidates for elected office - and one former city councilor - are among those who owe the city a total of $7.6 million in property taxes.

But landlord Raymond Acevedo of the Rayce Realty Trust tops the city's most recent list of tax scofflaws, reportedly owing the city $590,504 on his two six-apartment Western Avenue properties. The second largest amount - $515,919 - is owed by Fresh Pond Fruit Inc., a major property owner in the Alewife area.

Four notable public officials and one reputable nonprofit also showed up on the list.

Former City Councilor Saundra Graham owes the city she served for 18 years $15,737, according to the Finance Department.

Nearly $10,000 of that is wrapped up in a tax title on 191 Western Ave., the two-family residence she owns. The property was placed in tax title in 1994. Graham has also failed to pay her 2003 property taxes.

Graham was unavailable for comment.

Former candidate for City Council Vincent Dixon owes $10,879 in combined tax title and unpaid 2003 taxes, and Christopher Craig, who ran for School Committee last year, must pay $6,385 to get his Magnolia Avenue home out of tax title.

Neither were available for comment.

Planning Board member William Tibbs Jr. appears to owe the city $1,524 for his house at 79 Pearl St., but he says the taxes were paid by the bank that handles his mortgage.

"Well that's an error, and that's an error that the city is aware," he said Tuesday. " If I'm still on the list, I'm surprised."

The Chronicle could not confirm this with the Finance Department.

Despite the high rollers, Cambridge has a good record of collecting property taxes, with only 2 percent of its nearly 17,000 accounts in tax title, according to Louis DePasquale, assistant city manager for fiscal affairs.

"We collect 99.8 percent of property taxes, [which] I would probably say is the highest of any city in the commonwealth," he said.

Currently, the city is owed $7,628,798 in tax title, back taxes and interest. The city's total tax levy is $210 million. The city has liens against 310 properties, and 264 accounts have not paid 2003 taxes. Many of the large sums owed by individuals or companies are due to the 16 percent annual interest that accrues when the account is unpaid. Due to a computer system conversion the finance department, a number of unique property owners or accounts was unavailable.

The $590,504 said to be owed by landlord Acevedo combines back taxes and interest accrued. Both 218 and 228 Western Ave. have been in tax title since 1982.

As for Fresh Pond Fruit, the city placed a lien on its land at 345 Alewife Brook Parkway in 1992. Treasurer Martin Hagerty did not want to discuss the back taxes in detail.

"I don't want to talk to you about it," Hagerty said Tuesday. "That's going to be taken care of within a week."

The city has filed suits in land court, the last step before foreclosure, against the largest offenders, according to Claire Spinner, director of finance. "We're hoping the letter from land court will say the city is really, really serious," she said.

Wailey L. Wing ($331,232), Boston and Maine Railroad ($301,447) and W.R. Grace ($235,745) round out the top five. Legal counsel for Grace said the company has filed Chapter 11 Reorganization and cannot pay off the tax title until it files a reorganization plan.

A report obtained by the Chronicle shows Cambridge Family and Children's Services owing $71,000 for its property on Gore Street. As a nonprofit, CFCS' building is tax exempt, but because of the timing of its purchase, that status did not apply until fiscal 2004. The nonprofit has filed for an abatement. Should that fail, Executive Director Denise Maguire said the money is in escrow and will be paid in full.

Contact Deborah Eisner at

Contact the Alewife Study Group, North Cambridge Massachusetts, by email at