Beaufort County assessor notices sent with wrong date cost county more than $5K

cconley@islandpacket.comSeptember 24, 2012 

Beaufort County reissued assessor notices to nearly 9,000 property owners Saturday because an earlier version contained a typographical error.

The forms, which alert property owners to factors that might affect the assessed value of their property -- and thereby the amount of their tax bills -- were printed with the year 2011 instead of 2012, according to county staff. Other information on the individual notices sent earlier this month was correct, county officials have said.

The revised notices, compiled from county data and mailed by a vendor, cost the county about $5,500 for postage and printing costs. It's not clear whether the county or the vendor was responsible for the error.

"Let's just call it a printing error and leave it at that," assessor Ed Hughes said Monday. "We don't want to point any fingers."

The county is required to tell property owners each year about any factors that determine how their property is taxed.

Hughes said construction nearby or on a property, land subdivisions, changes in assessment ratios are among the factors that can affect a property's taxable value.This year, notices were sent to about 8,900 property owners.

The notices explain ownership details, market and taxable value, assessment ratios, and other property details, Hughes said.

They do not say how much is owed in taxes. That information is included on property-tax bills, which arrive in late October or early November.

Hughes said the county had heard from several confused taxpayers after seeing "2011" on notices reflecting the 2012 tax year. Rather than put something on the website or print a flyer and "hope people read it," Hughes said he decided to just re-send all of the 2012 notices.

"Administratively, we have to get the correct date," Hughes said. And because some property owners appeal the county's assessed values and some of those cases wind up in court, "the law court would want to have these, and obviously, we need to have the correct dates on them."

The new notices have been reprinted with the correct year, but with no explanation for why they are being re-sent. Hughes said enclosing an insert explaining the situation might have cost the county more money.

"Some people might question why we sent two, ... but I did not want to incur any additional costs," he said, adding that he "wanted to get this turned around as soon as possible."

Property owners should receive the corrected notices this week.

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