Error on tax notices to cost city $12,000

Staffer mistakenly prints notices using wrong school district, resulting in overcharge to homeowners

The City of Penticton is going to be shelling out about $12,000 to correct a mistake on the 2014 tax notices mailed out to property owners.

The first tax bills sent out for 2014 featured the wrong school district — Okanagan Similkameen rather than Okanagan Skaha — with the result that the calculations of total taxes were higher than they should have been.

“It was an administrative error,” said Simone Blais, the city’s communication officer, explaining  that a staff member chose the wrong line from a list of school districts and corresponding tax rates. “From what I understand the bottom of the page had Okanagan Similkameen, but they didn’t flip the page to see Okanagan Skaha,” said Blais.

Amended property tax notices will be mailed out as soon as possible, and property owners are asked to refer to the “amended tax notice” only for the correct amount. In the interim, those who go to the front counter at city hall will have their taxes recalculated automatically.

“We sincerely apologize to affected property owners for the error, and regret any inconvenience or confusion this may cause,” said Colin Fisher, chief financial officer. “It is critical that property owners be charged only the amount necessary, and the city’s revenue services team is working swiftly to correct the error for all of our customers.”

According to Blais, the new tax notices are all lower than the first notices, though how much lower depends on the assessed value of the property.  But reaction from people presented with a lower amount when paying their taxes, she continued, has been positive, with one customer even saying it was like Christmas. However, the mistake comes with a price tag for the city. Blais said mailing out a new set of tax notices is costing about $12,000.

“When we look at how important it is to keep our taxpayers in the loop it was decided it was warranted,” said Blais. “It is the only way to 100 per cent  guarantee that everyone is notified of the change.”

Along with sending out the new tax notices, the city will be directly contacting people who paid their taxes before the mistake was noticed. They will be offered a choice of rebate options.

“We can send them a refund or apply that amount to next year’s account so it is a bit of a prepayment. But it is up to them,” said Blais.

People who use MyCity to claim their provincial home owner grant are asked to check the welcome screen message for information. E-bill customers using the MyCity online tax notice portal are asked to use the most recent tax notice dated June 11.

Taxpayers who have been following the Multimaterials B.C. recycling program (MMBC) changeover may be surprised to still see a recycling charge on their tax notice.  The reasons are twofold, according to Blais.

“We don’t know the final incentive amount. The second piece is we are not entirely sure how the program is going to play out,” said Blais. “That all could impact our rate in terms of whether or not we are receiving that financial incentive or going on our own.

According to Blais, city council considered whether to use the incentive and decrease the rate now, potentially increasing it again later, but decided it would be better to stay the course and put whatever incentive funds are received aside for future use in education or other programs to fortify the recycling program.

Property tax owners who still have questions can phone 250-490-2485 or email taxclk@penticton.ca.

 

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