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Fixed tax bills go out this week

The Monroe County Reporter of Forsyth, Georgia

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Monroe County Tax Commissioner Lori Andrews told a meeting of local officials on Monday that the mistake found on 17,000 property tax bills mailed last month was the result of miscommunication between her office and the county's billing company Manatron.

Andrews addressed the matter during a Monday morning meeting with local government leaders at the county commission building to discuss how to proceed after the error, which caused the county to under-bill by about $3.2 million.

Andrews said she should have sent an area Manatron representative a particular form that she failed to send, but she said she'd had a hard time making contact with Manatron throughout the process. She said she was never notified until the bills went out that a mistake had been made. Andrews said she proofread the wording of the bill but not the monetary figures that were inserted.

The bills showed the county M&O (maintenance and operations) millage rate at 10.831 with a sales tax rollback of 2.261. The bills should have stated that the county M&O rate is 13.816 and the rollback rate is 2.985.

Andrews said new bills were expected to go out by Tuesday from Manatron, which is located in Chattanooga. Therefore they likely won't arrive in mailboxes until later this week. The new bills will reflect the difference that still needs to be paid for customers who have already paid their taxes.

District 4 Monroe County commissioner Jarod Lovett suggested the county send out notices letting taxpayers know a second bill is on the way. Other officials balked at that idea, and county administrator Anita Cauthen said the county would consider notifying county residents via an automated message through the county's Emergency Management Service (EMS). City clerk Janice Hall also said she could notify city residents through a notice in their next utility bills. Monroe County Schools assistant superintendent Jackson Daniel said he would notify persons affiliated with the school system through the system's weekly Monroe Messages e-mail.

Since the city and school board millages were correct on the bills, only the county's funding is affected. Monroe County Chief Appraiser Bobby Gerhardt said 40 percent of the estimated $3.2 million shortfall is related to taxes on local utilities, and those bills hadn't even been sent out. He then said 80 percent of the remaining estimated $1.9 million will be paid by mortgage companies. Andrews said all mortgage companies affected have been notified, and they will be expected to make payment by Dec. 10. Therefore, only about $380,000 is truly missing from the county coffers.

Lovett, who called the error "a major miscalculation", said the county's 2016 budget approval has been held up due to tardiness with the county receiving tax digest information from the Georgia Department of Eevenue and the county's tax office. Lovett said this most recent mistake was just the latest in a series of problems he's seen with the whole taxation process, including the county receiving about nine different tax digest figures before the final one was handed down from the state.

Lovett said, "We've gotta be more responsible with public money."

Hall added she receives a tax digest with incorrect figures that have to be corrected almost every year. Andrews said some of the problem stems from elected officials' desires to get tax bills out quickly.

'We're rushing through this," Andrews said. "And when you rush, you make mistakes."

The second mailing of bills was estimated to cost about $9,000. Andrews said it is not yet clear who will pay for the second mailing.

Among the persons in attendance at the meeting were: representing the county government: Lovett, Cauthen and finance officer Ashley Wooley; representing city government: Hall; representing the school system: Daniel, Janet Howard and school board member J.P. Evans, representing the county assessors' office: Gerhardt and appraiser Bob Simmons; and representing the tax office: Andrews.

Copyright 2015 The Monroe County Reporter, Forsyth, Georgia. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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