Woodstock tax bill error angers residents
by Michelle Babcock
October 29, 2013 11:59 PM | 1671 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WOODSTOCK — An error on about 500 city tax bills that were in mailboxes Friday had some residents seeing red at the Woodstock City Council meeting Monday night.

Chief Financial Officer Robert Porche told the council the bills did not have senior exemptions calculated properly, but the error was being corrected.

“We are actively correcting those,” he said. “Regrettably, we issued some property tax bills without the senior exemption … not all of them, but a large portion of them. That being said, no taxpayer overpaid.”

Porche said his department was on the phone with programmers over the weekend correcting the problem and said “new bills were printed” on Monday and about 400 of them were sent out already.

Those who received tax bills with the error should get their corrected bill in the mail by Wednesday, he said.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Susan Jones, a Ward 5 city council candidate in the Nov. 5 election, spoke about the property tax error.

Jones said when she heard the error only affected people between 62 and 65 years old, she knew a few exceptions. One of those exceptions she pointed out at the meeting was Ward 3 city council candidate Judy Davila.

“I made a phone call to the finance director,” Jones said. “When he said it was just 62 to 65, I said ‘That’s a bunch of crap.’ And I got told, right quick, not to curse at him. And I asked him if he thought ‘crap’ was a curse word.”

Jones said she was a tax-paying citizen, and her phone “has been ringing like crazy” about the error.

“I looked up the definition for ‘crap,’” Jones started.

Mayor Donnie Henriques stopped Jones before she could read the definition.

“Susan, don’t go there,” Henriques said. “Let’s get to the point of what you’re trying to say.”

Jones said her point was that the tax bill being sent with an error was “substandard.”

“I’d just like to see this handled a little bit differently,” Jones said. “They’re owed a big apology.”

Councilwoman Tessa Bassford spoke about the tax bills during the mayor and council comment portion of the meeting.

“I am very uncomfortable letting what we heard stand,” Bassford said. “What we had was an error … immediately, once that was found, the elected officials were informed along with the other people who needed to be informed, who are generally the people that the public would call and ask questions of. I, for one, had the information I needed at my hands with the very first phone calls that I received. Every bit of feedback that I got was, ‘Oh, great, I’ll look for the upcoming bill and the apology,’ which was also in there.”

Bassford said Porche acted quickly to correct the problem and was honest about the mistake.

“Mr. Porche, from the very beginning, said, ‘Look, I made a mistake,’” Bassford said. “We all make mistakes … he stood up, said, ‘There was a mistake made, we’re fixing it.’ As a member of the council, and as a member of the public, that’s not bothersome to me.”

Bassford said she would “stand by any member of our staff that tells a member of the public that they are not willing to be spoken to using words like ‘crap,’ and those kinds of things.”

The councilwoman said being spoken to in that manner is not part of the city staff’s job.

Other city council members said they agreed with Bassford’s comments.

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