“Looking back over my 30 years working for the town, the thing I enjoyed the most was the day-to-day interaction with the public,” said Lewisboro’s receiver of taxes, Joann Vasi.
Ms. Vasi recently marked three decades of service, starting on Jan. 17, 1983.
She described her job as receiver of taxes as a combination of bringing in the funds needed to keep the town and its school system operating while at the same time offering tax guidance and advice to residents when they need it.
A longtime resident of Goldens Bridge, Ms. Vasi moved here with her husband Sal and two young daughters, Jennifer and Jessica, in 1974.
“I was born and raised in the Bronx, got married, and lived in Queens for several years,” she said. “We moved to Lewisboro when the girls were very young. We decided to come here because it’s beautiful and house prices were reasonable back then.”
After staying at home with her daughters until they were both old enough for elementary school, Ms. Vasi started to think about going back to work. “I had previously worked in banking and advertising and saw a newspaper advertisement for a clerk in the town assessor’s office. I applied for the job and got it.”
At the time, Gordon Washburn was the town assessor and Robert Neukirch the town supervisor. “This really takes you back in time,” Ms. Vasi said.
Two years later, town Republicans asked Ms. Vasi to run for the elected position of receiver of taxes because Katie Haugh, who held the post, was retiring.
“I decided to do it,” she said. “I won the election and every one since. I am now in my seventh four-year term after first starting on Jan. 1, 1986.”
Ms. Vasi said things have changed a lot in her office over the past three decades.
“When I first started we had no computers,” she said. “The tax rolls were produced outside the office and things were processed by hand. About a year later, I got my first computer and things have moved ahead steadily since then.”
Ms. Vasi and her deputy receiver of taxes, Deidre Casper, are responsible for collecting $75 million each year.At one time the tax receiver’s office had a larger staff, but recent budget cuts have reduced it back to Ms. Vasi and her part-time deputy.
“Our basic responsibility is to collect town, county, fire, sewer and school taxes, plus water fees for Oakridge. We also maintain the town’s tax lien list,” Ms. Vasi said.
Ms. Vasi’s office has peaks of intense activity that coincide with collecting and processing the school taxes twice a year, town and county taxes once a year, water bills on a quarterly basis, and tax liens once a year.
“I really enjoy my dealings with the public,” Ms. Vasi said. “I give a lot of advice on the tax process and how people can deal with life changes, like divorce or the loss of a job, that impact their ability to stay current.”
Ms. Vasi said that some people come to her in a panic when they begin to fall behind in payments. “I try to offer them reassurance, telling them there are ways to work things out. Some people seem to feel they are going to be literally thrown out of their homes very quickly, but this is not the case at all.”
Ms. Vasi said that even though property taxes are up sharply, liens are not.
“Fortunately, these have been holding pretty steady, with tax foreclosures level for the past few years,” she said. “When I know people are having financial trouble I try to stay in close touch with them so they do not lose track of the situation.”
Ms. Vasi said she plans to retire once she completes her seventh term later this year.
“I don’t have any specific plans as yet,” she said. “Maybe I will just sleep late every day and visit my daughter in Portland, Ore., for starters. I will definitely continue as secretary to the Goldens Bridge Fire Department.”
Ms. Vasi said the thing she would miss the most was the townspeople.
“I really do enjoy the day-to-day contact and conversations,” she said. “Making connections to people has been very important to me. I try to remember things about their lives and families and make paying their taxes a little more pleasant.”
Summing things up, Ms. Vasi said, “All in all I have had a really great time, taking into account the usual ups and downs that come with any job. Part of me says it’s too bad I’m leaving, but the other part says it’s time. I will be moving on.”