Ocean Township, NJ — In the land of the free, even if you fully pay off your home loan to the bank, your property is never truly yours. Through property tax, states from coast to coast continue to charge you for land that you own. As the following case illustrates, even if you accidentally forget to pay a tiny portion of these taxes to the state, they can and will steal your home right out from under you. Elderly retirees are no exception to the tyranny of taxation and state-sponsored theft.
Glen Kristi Goldenthal, 89, despite suffering from Alzheimer's, has maintained her own home for years in New Jersey and done so without incident. Despite her illness, Goldenthal has remembered to pay the government the taxes they demand every year — most of them, anyway. In 2019, this innocent grandmother underpaid her bill by $0.06, a nickel and a penny, which created the perfect statist storm.
Because the state claims the authority to force you to pay them for property you own, if you are late paying them, they will add on fees and interest that send your bill skyrocketing. Case in point is the fact that Goldenthal's unpaid bill of 6 cents, snowballed into a more than $300 bill. If you hadn't done the math yet, that is an increase of over 5,000 times the original amount owed.
Since Goldenthal suffers from Alzheimer's, she didn't understand when the city called her and told her that her home was now being put up for auction — over a nickel and a penny.
Goldenthal's daughter, Lisa Suhay took to TikTok to let people know that her nearly 90-year-old mother with Alzheimer's was about to be kicked out on the street over this unpaid 6 cent tax bill. Naturally, that video went viral.
Suhay explained to NBC New York that her mother's Alzheimer's made matters worse, noting that even if Goldenthal did know what was going on, she likely forgot.
"Apparently the tax collector called her," Suhay said. "Because when I talked to him, he said he realized there was something wrong, that she didn’t understand."
After realizing that the callous and cruel bureaucracy of Ocean Township was about the throw an elderly woman out of her own home over 6 cents, Suhay began frantically calling everyone at the Monmouth County township’s office. Eventually, she reached the mayor, Christopher Siciliano, whose office undoubtedly profits off the sale of homes whose owners cannot pay, or forget to pay their tax bills.
"I'm sorry, you're selling my mother’s house today because she owes you six cents. He said 'yeah, it's amazing how these things snowball,'" Suhay said. "I was like – it’s six cents!"
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The mayor called the ordeal embarrassing and silly.
"Naturally it's really embarrassing the town would put someone's home up for sale over six cents. It's silly," said Siciliano.
'Silly' doesn't even begin to describe the act of stealing an 89-year-old woman's home from her over money you force her to pay you to keep a home that she owns. Tyrannical, repressive, totalitarian, cruel, domineering, and criminal would have been much better adjectives to use in this instance.
Not wanting to admit that his office profits off of tax sales, Siciliano chocked the fact that an 89-year-old woman was getting kicked out of her house, to a computer program.
"You can keep paying that quarterly payment, but the back payment triggers an amount that eventually can cause a tax sale," said Siciliano. "This is all computer-generated, not something that a human can correct."
After Suhay shed light on her mother's case, the mayor was forced to respond by reaching out to state officials to create legislation to increase limits on how much is owed before a tax sale is triggered. Perhaps they may raise the unpaid tax bill to $0.07 before stealing an elderly woman's home.
Suhay was unimpressed with the mayor passing the buck to the state.
"I understand this is state law, but the township really has to bear responsibility for how they handle this," Suhay said. "Shame on anybody who can’t think far outside the box enough to come up with six cents in an office full of people. You can’t pull a dime out of your pocket?"
Suhay told reporters that she's since paid the state their $0.06 and her mother is safe for the next year. However, she noted that she's worried it may happen again due to her mother's Alzheimer's and a completely broken system.
"From minute to minute to minute, this isn’t over for her. She’s called me dozens of times in the last 24 hours, (asking) 'Is my house gonna be OK? Do I have to pack? Where am I gonna go, live?'" said Suhay. "She had the money to pay. How many people during a pandemic, or any other time, are being victimized by this greedy broken system?"