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City Discovers Mail Mishaps, Tax Appeals Lost

That was worrisome, Kronzer says, because if houses aren't reassessed by the appeal board, their owners have to pay taxes on the original — and perhaps higher — assessments. "We naturally gave people their recourse," says City Assessor Richie McKeithen. For those 62 people, the appeal deadline was moved to Sept. 23.

In mid-August, another tray of mail addressed to the assessor was picked up at the post office after sitting there for up to one and a half months.

Kronzer found that the original mailroom delay appeared to have been caused either by an employee holding mail bound for the assessor's office or by a data-entry backlog.

Oddly, McKeithen says, his office didn't receive any more complaints than usual about slow responses to reassessment requests. "That's what made it so amazing," he says.

More troubling, however, was the discovery that the assessor's office business-reply permit — the permit that allows the post office to accept stampless envelopes for which the city later pays postage — apparently expired about 10 years ago.

According to the post office, business-reply envelopes destined for the assessor's office would have been returned to their senders or tossed in the "dead letter" file.

"I'm sorry, I really don't know about that," McKeithen says of the expired permit. He points out that his job concerns real-estate assessments, not mailroom operations. "The mail is just not one thing you talk about," McKeithen says with a chuckle, adding, "I just know we need to have a much more efficient way of delivering mail citywide."

Staff in the auditor's office are researching ways for the city to improve mail operations and save money, perhaps by eliminating business-reply envelopes. After all, Kronzer points out, if someone has a chance to save thousands on real-estate taxes, they won't mind paying 37 cents to mail a request for a new assessment. — Melissa Scott Sinclair

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