Monday, December 31, 2012

What Happens When a $2 Million Mistake is Made and No One Catches It?

St. Louis County’s Department of Revenue has made a $2 million mistake, neglecting to add a surcharge on the tax bills of about 200,000 property owners.

The oversight means those owners are saving a few bucks when paying property taxes in the weeks before Monday’s deadline. But it also means that the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is being shorted more than $2 million in 2012 tax revenue.

The blunder comes on the heels of another embarrassment for the department and the administration of County Executive Charlie Dooley. The county’s Collector of Revenue recently resigned after the Post-Dispatch reported that she had not paid her own personal property taxes since 2008.

MSD officials were not aware of the assessment mistake when contacted by the Post-Dispatch last week. On Thursday, county Revenue Director Eugene Leung cited retirements, attrition and general office turnover as the chief reason for the lapse.

Taxpayers who saved a few dollars, though, are not off the hook.

The county intends to recoup the fees — which come to approximately $5.30 for land or homes assessed at $150,000 — in a surcharge attached to 2013 property tax bills.

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