Jefferson County Tax Bill Snafu Overwhelms Collector's Office
Error on real estate and property tax bills blamed on printer.
The calls and visitors to Jefferson County Collector Beth Mahn's office began in earnest Monday morning as taxpayers were seeking an explanation about problems with their real estate and property tax bills.
There was so much call volume that virtually every office of county government was unreachable Monday. And although the call volume abated somewhat toward the end of the week, taxpayers often logged a lot of time on hold.
Collector Beth Mahn said a customized message was being prepared so that frustrated callers on hold would receive an explanation about tax bill problems in the hope of restoring some semblance of normalcy in the collector's office.
The problem, Mahn said, was that taxpayers received their 2012 real estate tax bills, beginning last Friday" that called for "taxes due," often for several thousand dollars. Real estate taxes normally are paid by a property owner's mortgage holder, so the sight of a "taxes due" line was alarming to many who received their bills.
Mahn said her office's new computer system was not the culprit in this situation. Rather, she said the company that prints the county's bills - Specialty Mailing of St. Louis -- failed to separate those that should have been sent to a property owner's lender and instead, mailed all of the bills directly to the property owner.
Mahn said taxpayers shouldn't pay the "total due" if they currently are making mortgage payments.
To be on the safe side, Mahn said taxpayers can check their bill for a "Lending Code" at the top. If there is a lending code there, the bill already has been sent to the lender. If there is no code, taxpayers will need to work with their lender to make sure real estate taxes are paid, she said.
Mann said that despite the calls and visits from some disgruntled taxpayers, her office learned a lesson.
"We found out that an overwhelming majority of people want to get copy of their real estate tax bills," she said, adding that her office will take steps to implement such a program in the future.
The difference, she said, is that the bills will clearly state that the tax is to be paid by the mortgagee.
The other tax bill snafu this week in the collector's office involved incorrect personal property tax bills, Mahn said
"Every 10th bill was wrong," she said.
Mahn said the printer failed to insure that the correct number of vehicles were listed on the personal property tax bills and sent out bills for vehicles not owned by the individual taxpayer. She said the personal property tax total amount was calculated correctly, despite the number of vehicles listed on the bill.
Mahn said 100,000 personal property tax bills were mailed, and 4,000 bills had the wrong vehicles listed. New bills have been sent to taxpayers who received the wrong bills, along with an apology for the snafu, Mahn said.