WINCHESTER — An area police chief who is also running for a three-year term as Winchester selectman owes the town more than $60,000 in property taxes, liens and interest, according to Winchester tax records.
Records show that as of Wednesday, Richard Pratt Jr., who is Nelson’s police chief and also serves as a part-time police officer in Winchester, owed the town $67,839.52. This includes unpaid property taxes from 2016, 10 liens placed on four of his properties and interest that has accrued on his unpaid dues.
According to the office, Pratt paid $5,000 to the town Friday; however, online records have not been updated to reflect this.
The records show Pratt to be late in paying 2016 taxes on properties he owns in Winchester, including 129 Elm St., 80 Elm St., 38 Richmond Road, 88 Elm St. and 90 Elm St. The total he owed, as of Wednesday, in unpaid property taxes from 2016, including interest, was $17,052.61.
The town of Winchester has also placed 10 liens on those properties — with the exception of 38 Richmond Road — between 2014 and 2016, the records show.
Pratt said 90 and 88 Elm St. are rental properties, 129 Elm St. is his parents’ home, 38 Richmond Road is another home he owns; and 80 Elm St. is a vacant field.
If New Hampshire residents don’t pay their property taxes in the year that they’re due, all towns and municipalities in the state can place liens on the properties in the spring of the following year if those taxes are still unpaid, according to the Winchester tax office. Liens accrue interest at a higher rate than unpaid taxes, and if liens go unpaid for three years, towns and municipalities reserve the right to re-deed the properties on which they’re placed.
Records show the amount Pratt owed, as of Wednesday, on the 10 liens placed on his properties, including interest, is $50,786.
Records also indicate that taxes on his personal residence, 89 Old Mountain Turnpike Road, are paid off.
Pratt told The Sentinel he’s fallen behind on his taxes because until recently, he’d been paying off his parents’ mortgage. His parents live at 129 Elm St., a property which he said he took over in ownership several years ago, to help them pay off the mortgage. A woman who identified herself as Pratt’s mother, when called by The Sentinel Friday, confirmed he took ownership to help pay off the mortgage.
Pratt said he finished paying off the mortgage, which cost him about $60,000, “a few years ago,” and now his focus is to pay back the town what he owes it in taxes.
“Now it’s just the taxes that I’ve got to face and get caught up on that. Most people don’t have 60 or 70 thousand dollars in their pocket that they can slap down,” he said. He also noted he had recently finished paying off the mortgage on the property at 38 Richmond Road.
He stressed that although he may not always pay his taxes on time, he does always eventually pay them.
Asked if he believes it’s important for public officials to pay their taxes, he said he did, but he noted that unforeseen factors can influence priorities.
“It’s an important part, but it’s also an important part to be honest and say why certain people are in this position. You have to make sure that your elders and your parents are taken care of,” Pratt said.
A Sentinel review of Winchester’s tax records also found that another candidate for the term as three-year selectman, Barry Montgomery, owes $4,068.53 in property taxes and interest. Those taxes were due on Dec. 30.
Brandon Day, another candidate for the position, owes no money in property taxes and Roberta Fraser, the chairwoman of Winchester’s board of selectmen, rents a property in town.
However, Fraser said that when she was first elected as a selectman in 2008, she owed about $11,000 in property taxes. That wasn’t paid off until sometime between 2010 and 2011, she said. Records of Fraser’s tax history were not immediately available.
Fraser said that while it’s important for public officials to pay their taxes, officials are only human.
Winchester’s tax office also disclosed that a current selectman, Jack Marsh, owed $14,000 in property taxes before he was elected and didn’t pay them off until one to two months later.
“We all may get into circumstances that we don’t want to get in. It doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to uphold the position and do what’s best for the town,” Fraser said.
Three candidates for a separate one-year term as Winchester selectmen do not owe any money in taxes, according to records.
Isaac Stein contributed reporting to this story.