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CCC levy missing from first half bills

Just because it wasn’t on their tax bills doesn’t mean Lawrence County taxpayers can get out of paying their part of the Collins Career Center improvement levy.

Property owners will just have to double up on the second half bills that are due in July.

Last month the Lawrence County Auditor’s Office discovered that the one-half mill levy had not been placed on the tax duplicate for the first half of property taxes that had been sent out in January and due March 8.

The levy is to bring in approximately $400,000 over five years to the school district to fund a $22 million major overhaul of the facility. It was passed in March 2012. In December when Deputy Auditor Chris Kline was getting the tax rates together he did not have a letter of certification from the county board of elections about the levy.

After an election when a levy has passed, the county board of elections is to send a letter of certification to the auditor’s office and the department of taxation. That letter states that a particular levy has passed and what the vote tally was.

“We found (the error) when I was working on the joint vocational school budget for next year,” Kline said. “(The school’s) treasurer had a line item for permanent improvement property levy anticipating revenue and I don’t have a levy and that triggered it.”

Kline then called the state taxation department to see if it had a copy of the certification.

“When they received my rates, they should have compared them to the levy results from the board of elections,” Kline said. “If they had received (the results), they should have caught it as well.”

Now the state board of taxation has ordered that the entire amount of the levy be placed on the second half tax bills due in July. Those who paid the entire year of taxes in March will receive an additional bill.

“They think they are paid in full but they aren’t,” County Treasurer Stephen Burcham said. “It will be sent as part of the second half tax bill. People who thought they paid their entire tax bill will have another bill coming out.”

The half-mill tax on a property with a value of $100,000 will cost a taxpayer $15.31 for the year. That should have been split, with $7.66 on the first half and $7.65 on the second half.

“My job is to collect taxes that are assessed by the auditor,” Burcham said. “That information is provided. If we do not have the rates provided that is also the responsibility of the auditor to provide them prior to the submission to the printing company. They are supposed to review all of this. If this (situation) causes an undue hardship, I will be glad to work with (taxpayers) on a case by case basis.”

County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson said just because there was an error in the billing doesn’t eliminate the fact that the tax levy exists.

“The mere fact that it was not placed on the tax bill doesn’t relieve the taxpayer of the burden to pay the tax,” Anderson said. “This is a situation where the voters voted to approve a tax levy. It is in effect and is required to be paid. (Not being on the tax bills) doesn’t relieve the tax liability.”

The auditor’s office has guaranteed that the joint vocational school will get its money and has worked with its computer software company to take the amount the district should have gotten in March from the first half collections. That money will be paid back from the second half collections.

“It is unfortunate but we found the error and all the taxing entities will be whole at end of the day,” County Auditor Jason Stephens said. “We didn’t have a record. The tax department didn’t have record. The board of elections said they mailed it. You have to make it right. We will move forward and put in place measures that it will not happen again.”

Now when a certification from the elections board is received by the auditor’s office, both a representative from the board and the auditor’s office will sign it.

Cathy Overbeck, director of the elections board, was unavailable for comment Friday.

Board member Mark McCown said it was his understanding from Overbeck that she had notified the auditor’s office and the taxation department.

“(She) sent those out in a timely fashion,” McCown said. “She pulled the certification and verified with her internal records that those were properly sent out.”