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Error on tax bill puts dent in county revenues

Wednesday, Aug 15, 2012 7:14 PM
Last updated Thursday, Aug 16, 2012 9:33 AM
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Columbia County’s tax office had an unusually high number of complaints about bigger tax bills this year after a three-year moratorium on reassessments ended.

 Because of a keying error in the Columbia County Tax Assessor's Office, Harry and Annette Humbert's $250,000 home in the Kingston subdivision near Grovetown home in the Kingston subdivision erroneously was valued at more than $22 million, resulting in a tax bill for nearly $245,000. They've since received a corrected bill with about $2,100 due in taxes.  BARRY PASCHAL/STAFF
BARRY PASCHAL/STAFF
Because of a keying error in the Columbia County Tax Assessor's Office, Harry and Annette Humbert's $250,000 home in the Kingston subdivision near Grovetown home in the Kingston subdivision erroneously was valued at more than $22 million, resulting in a tax bill for nearly $245,000. They've since received a corrected bill with about $2,100 due in taxes.

Harry and Annette Humbert’s bill can top them all.

On Monday, when the Humberts read this year’s tax notice for their modest two-story home in Kingston subdivision near Grovetown, it caused a serious case of sticker shock.

Because of a typing error in the tax assessor’s office, their $200,000 home instead was valued at nearly $23 million.

When Annette Humbert opened the bill, “She said, ‘you’ve got to call somebody,’” her husband said. “Our taxes are for more than our house is worth.’”

The bill was $245,723.23 for a home purchased three years ago for less than $250,000.

“Twenty-two million is just a little out of my reach,” Humbert said.

He and his wife said they had not opened this year’s tax notice when it arrived a couple of months ago, because they’d assumed it would be handled through escrow by their mortgage company.

Because they didn’t appeal the erroneous assessment, the inflated revenue figure wound up as part of the county’s final tax digest.

After the Board of Assessors met Tuesday night to revise the tax bill, the local government entities basing their budgets on that figure had to scramble to make up for the paper loss.

School Superintendent Charles Nagle on Tuesday told school board members the revision would cut more than $158,000 from the revenue on which their recently completed budget was based.

The hit came just a few weeks after the county let them know school system revenues would be cut by $250,000 to make up for four years of overcharges to disabled veterans.

“I’m waiting on one of these errors to go in our direction,” Nagle said.

The erroneous bill was generated because of a clerk’s keying error, said Jeremy Roese, Columbia County’s deputy chief appraiser.

“They were reviewing the land records and instead of putting in 2.09 acres (for the Humbert property), the decimal and the zero are right next to each other, so it went in at 2009 acres,”
Roese said.

“We should have caught it when we came out of the record, because it flags us and tells us how much money is on the parcel,” he said. “For some reason it wasn’t caught.”

After Humbert called, the county scrambled to correct the bill and sent out a new one for just under $2,100, Roese said – along with an apology.

“We hate that this happened,” he said. “We strive to do our best, but then we have this happen, and you’re like, ‘Ugh.’”

As for the homeowners, “We just kind of made a joke about it,” Annette Humbert said. “Bill Gates is going to be jealous.”

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Fools_and_sages
360
Points
Fools_and_sages 08/15/12 - 08:27 pm
3
0
Double-checking your work?
Unpublished

Whatever happened to checking your work and rechecking it? I realize that efficiency is important, but which is worse? Taking 45 extra minutes to enter data or causing a $158,000 revenue error that probably played into lowering the millage rate. Even if you don't check your own work, your supervisor should be checking it. This just laziness and the problem with assuming things are right on behalf of the county and the homeowners. You really didn't open your tax notice? What else don't you open that might have financial implications? Hope the homeowners learned their lesson and the county learned that efficiency for efficiency's sake sometimes leads to big mistakes.

seenitB4
81854
Points
seenitB4 08/16/12 - 07:31 am
2
1
Columbia county?

I hear you will have many more kids in the school system this year.....enough to fill up an entire school......hey--that is progress.....I feel your pain...Gwinnett county gained MORE people last year....while some lost folks we got them....
More schools needed here too.....

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