The Athens County Auditor’s Office reported Friday that a software problem was to blame for many owners of manufactured homes receiving an incorrect property tax bill.
Last week, Athens County Auditor Jill Davidson was notified that some manufactured home’s annual property tax bills were calculated incorrectly, by not giving the full Homestead credit, according to release sent late Friday morning from the auditor’s office. After review, it was found to be a software problem.
“I immediately asked my staff to work with our software vendor and correct those tax bills,” Davidson says in the release, adding that “In doing so, we quickly discovered that there were other Ohio counties that use this software having a similar issue.”
According to Deputy Auditor Dennis DeCamillo, the issue is now resolved. “Because the vendor knew what to look for after seeing this problem in other counties, they were quick to fix it. We then recalculated the impacted tax bills.”
DeCamillo told The Athens Messenger that he was not sure how many taxpayers were affected by the glitch, but estimated that number to be around 200.
“We had known that there was an issue sometime last week and started talking to vendors to clarify,” DeCamillo said.
Davidson’s office certified the mobile home tax duplicate to the treasurer on Feb. 16, which then allowed the treasurer’s office to print and mail bills for mobile homes, according to a release from Athens County Treasurer Ric Wasserman’s office obtained Thursday afternoon. The bills were printed and mailed a short time later.
“This week, we began receiving calls from mobile home taxpayers on the Homestead Exemption Program. These callers were concerned that their bills did not reflect the discount to which they are entitled. After some investigation it became clear that the auditor did not apply the Homestead Exemption to the mobile home bills,” the statement from Wasserman’s office noted.
“We do not yet know how many taxpayers are affected by this error. We have been unsuccessful at getting the auditor’s office to communicate with us about the situation,” the statement continued.
Wasserman told The Messenger Friday morning that he received payments from some residents who shouldn’t have owed anything, but didn’t have an exact number.
He mentioned that the incident has been particularly upsetting to him because “(the auditor’s office staff) were not even willing to provide us a list of those affected.”
Wasserman said that he emailed the auditor’s office earlier this week in an attempt to work together to rectify the error and “only heard back from Dennis once that ‘We are working on it.’”
DeCamillo told The Messenger that he hoped to talk to Wasserman on Friday, but at press time, the treasurer had not heard from the auditor’s office.
The statement from Davidson’s office noted that in getting the revised tax bills in the mail, the treasurer asked the auditor to hold off sending the bills themselves. “Normal practice has been for the auditor to mail revised tax bills in cases like this. The treasurer’s office provides us with blank paper-stock for that purpose.”
Wasserman countered by saying that only his office can send the bills out and that “we hope we can send them out (as soon as possible).
“We want to get the word out, that’s the most important thing,” Wasserman told The Messenger.
“I am not sure why the treasurer asked us to forgo mailing the revised bills, but we have no problem with his request,” said DeCamillo, in the auditor’s office release. “We are going to send a letter to those manufactured home owners, letting them know about the decrease in the bill. They should contact the treasurer if they want an actual printed tax bill.”
DeCamillo told The Messenger “so I am not mailing them out.”
Wasserman referred to The Ohio Revised Code 323.13 that states that the bills must be sent out by the tresurer’s office as an explanation as to why the should not be mailed out by Davidson’s office.
The code states:
Except as provided in section 323.134 of the Revised Code, immediately upon receipt of any tax duplicate from the county auditor, but not less than twenty days prior to the last date on which the first one-half taxes may be paid without penalty as prescribed in section 323.12 or 323.17 of the Revised Code, the county treasurer shall cause to be prepared and mailed or delivered to each person charged on such duplicate with taxes or to an agent designated by such person, the tax bill prescribed by the commissioner of tax equalization under section 323.131 of the Revised Code. When taxes are paid by installments, the county treasurer shall mail or deliver to each person charged on such duplicate or the agent designated by such person, a second tax bill showing the amount due at the time of the second tax collection. The second-half tax bill shall be mailed or delivered at least twenty days prior to the close of the second-half tax collection period. The treasurer shall maintain a record of the person or agent to whom each bill is mailed or delivered.
After delivery of the delinquent land duplicate as prescribed in section 5721.011 of the Revised Code, the county treasurer may prepare and mail to each person in whose name property therein is listed an additional tax bill showing the total amount of delinquent taxes appearing on such duplicate against such property. The tax bill shall include a notice that the interest charge prescribed by division (B) of section 323.121 of the Revised Code has begun to accrue.
While the situation remains fluid until a meeting between Wasserman and the auditor’s office take place, Davidson said that she is at least glad her office has discovered the reason for the error.
“I am happy that the problem is resolved, and that our tax payers are getting the maximum benefit they are entitled to,” Davidson said in her official statement.
Wasserman noted that manufactured home taxpayers who should receive the Homestead Exemption should call his office at 740-592-3231 before paying their tax bill.
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