Thousands of tax-reassessment notices undelivered in Beaufort County

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comNovember 5, 2013 

Nearly 5,800 reassessment notices, shown here Nov. 5, 2012, were returned to the Beaufort County Assessor's office.

ZACH MURDOCK — Staff photo

Several thousand Beaufort County property-value reassessment notices have gone undelivered, county officials say.

Notices were returned for various reasons, including outdated mailing addresses and a U.S. Postal Service scanning process that caused mail to be returned without a delivery attempt, assessor Ed Hughes said.

In all, nearly 5,800 of the more than 126,000 notices were returned to the Assessor's Office, Hughes said.

Most of the returns were a result of scanning in the Charleston post office, where Beaufort County mail is routed, that attempts to verify addresses in its own address database and weed out extraneous mail, Hughes said. "So if it wasn't an exact match, they wouldn't even try to deliver."

The post office system checks each envelope's ZIP code and the street address with its the ZIP codes and addresses in its own database and returns any that don't match, said Harry Spratlin, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Charleston. The database is updated constantly, but it's nearly impossible to have a perfect mailing list, he said.

The database "is kind of a living thing, it's very responsive," Spratlin said. "But no matter how responsive our methods are, it's hard to keep track of every American."

SouthData, which was awarded a county contract to distribute the notices, told Hughes a typical return rate on mass mailings is about 3.5 to 4 percent. This return was slightly higher, with 4.6 percent of notices bouncing back. After the last countywide reassessment in 2009, about 7,000 notices were returned, Hughes said.

Before the mailings are finalized, SouthData checks addresses against the post office database and tries to flag possible problems for assessor's staff to clean up, Hughes said. That process has helped the staff lower the number of returns, he added.

"I've never heard of anybody having a perfectly clean mailing list," Spratlin said.

To help get the notices delivered, assessor's staff have created an online database of the names and addresses whose letters were returned to the office. Property owners who think they haven't yet received their notice can go to www.bcgov.net and click on the "Unclaimed Reassessment Notices" slider on the home page to search that database for their name.

Those owners whose names appear in the search results should contact the Assessor's Office so it can update contact information and resend the notices. Owners can reach the office at 843-255-2400 or assessor@bcgov.net.

The county began mailing notices in September. Property owners have until Dec. 11 to appeal an assessment. For those who have not yet received their notices, the county will accept appeals for a short time after that deadline because of the delay, Hughes said.

The number of people appealing is expected to rise this year because the county reassesed property values this year, as state law requires it to do every five years.

Tax bills using the new assessments will be mailed early this month, Auditor Sharon Burris has said. Tax amounts should appear on individual properties' profiles on the county's online PropertyMax system next week, Hughes said.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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