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Glitch Creates More Giant Tax Bills

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A glitch in a new city Finance Department computer program accidentally sent out real estate tax bills for more than 50 times what some residents owed.

Approximately 129 homeowners received the faulty bills, says city spokesperson Britt Drewes.

"Certainly we are very sorry," says Drewes. "But immediately upon learning of the error last week, [city officials] reached out to these folks."

For City Council President Bill Pantele, the mix-up is not just a simple accident, but symptomatic of an understaffed Finance Department not living up to its duties. The department had 19 vacancies as of March 1.

"All of a sudden phones started lighting up about incorrect tax bills, and amazingly, those calls were referred over to the assessor's office, [which] has nothing to do with the issuance of bills," Pantele says. "Somebody in finance is going to have to explain if the new finance system wasn't ready yet."

The bad bills apparently stemmed from a data entry error, wherein a city employee mistakenly identified some properties with the wrong district. The properties sit in the Riverfront Developing Special District, where taxes are calculated at $0.035 per $100 of the property's assessed value. They were misidentified as Riverfront Overlay District properties, where the tax rate is $1.90 for every $100 of value. Christine Johnson, a senior property manager for Dominion Realty Partners, complained to the city about her bill for more than $2.1 million. The fee last year was $351,000. S

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