Firm hired to collect: Unregistered cars a problem in Naugatuck

Savoy & Associates owner Stephanie Savoy makes a presentation to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses during a May 3 meeting at Naugatuck Town Hall. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — The borough is continuing a program with a local private investigation firm after having success combating unregistered cars that resulted in lost tax revenue.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses unanimously approved at its May meeting to enter into another agreement with local firm Savoy & Associates for $50,000.

“As we all know, we’ve had a long-term problem with out-of-town cars not being registered and not being taxed,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said during the meeting. “We’ve implemented a program over the last several years that has been very successful and has resulted in a large number of cars being added.”

Savoy owner Stephanie Savoy said her firm has been doing this program since 2018, where it only first focused on motor vehicles in apartment and condominium complexes. In 2019, the firm expanded to only single-family homes. In 2020 and 2021, the firm looked at the entire borough, taking care of every house and street.

“The way it works, my company goes out with vehicles, cameras mounted in them and just drives up and down the streets of Naugatuck,” Savoy said at the meeting. “When the cameras picks up on an out-of-state plate, which they’re programmed to do, we tell them what to look for, to minus out Connecticut and capture everything else.”

Savoy said the camera captures the out-of-state plates and the photos go into a server.

After there’s a second picture capture of license plates, it goes into a secondary system.

Once there is a third capture, it goes into a separate system and is followed by Savoy getting an alert that a vehicle has been captured three times.

Savoy said she looks at the vehicle information to figure out who the owner is. If there’s a tie to the property address — meaning if it’s the owner of the property or a newly purchased home — it then goes over to the assessor’s office. Once the info gets there, the assessor’s office sends out an introduction letter stating the motor vehicle owner has a potential tax liability to the address attached to the out-of-state car.

A person owes taxes to the borough after three months or longer, according to Savoy.

“That’s usually the majority of what we see — where they just don’t understand that three months or longer taxes are due to the borough of Naugatuck. So a lot of it ends up being education,” said Savoy. “With that being said, there are times that we end up sending a tax bill to someone who visits.”

“Often times it is a relative’s vehicle,” Savoy said. “It’s the mother, the father giving their kid a vehicle. It’s the grandparent giving their kid a vehicle or a significant other using the vehicle.
So with that we try get as strong a list as possible.”

During phase one in 2018, the firm captured 60 out-of-state cars and taxed them. In 2019, the firm captured 186 vehicles. In 2020 and 2020, the firm caught 487 and 386 out-of-state cars, respectively.

“Admittedly that number (for 2020) is high because of COVID-19. There were a lot of people who relocated here for healthcare, for the prisons. It was a lot of people temporarily here and all those people got removed once they called it in and said to us, ‘listen we were here just this year,’” Savoy said. “They were removed. They weren’t taxed.”

Savoy said her firm is seeing a lot of renters and repeat offenders.

For 2018, the firm generated $23,684 in taxes and the company was paid $17,350. In 2019, they came up with $48,616 in taxes and we were paid $21,440. For 2020, they generated $194,363 in taxes and were paid $85,300. The numbers for 2021 are not complete but is assumed to be closer to the previous year’s, according to Savoy.

“The other piece of this component is that as people are getting these tax liability notices, not a bill, just a letter from us saying you might have a potential liability. We’re seeing people then switch their vehicles to Connecticut registrations,” Savoy said.

In 2018, eight car owners convert to a Connecticut registration. In 2019 and 2020, 19 and 71 car owners converted to Connecticut registrations. For 2021, the tax liability letters were recently sent out. So far, seven car owners have converted, according to Savoy.

Assessor Shelby Jackson said the program allows residents to see out-of-state vehicle owners being assessed properly and registrations are changing.

“By and large, the program has been very successful and it’s an issue of fairness and it’s an issue of educating the public,” Jackson said.

Tax Collector Jim Goggin echoed Jackson’s feelings on the program and said he thinks this program is very necessary.

“We’re doing a really good job of collecting them and we’re keeping it going,” Goggin said.