Milton accidentally overtaxes residents

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Friday, April 6, 2012
— What do you do when you accidentally overtax your residents?

For the city of Milton, that’s the $68,000 question.

Milton City Administrator Jerry Schuetz announced this week that the city is working to resolve a tax “calculation overrun” that occurred when city staff made a clerical mistake last year while filling out the city’s 2011 levy worksheet.

The form is sent to the county and the state as a way to determine local property taxes.

The city discovered the mistake in January, after the city already had begun to collect part of its property taxes.

The error means the city will collect an overrun of $68,438 in taxes.

It essentially means city residents were overcharged about $1 for a $100,000 property, or about $2 for the average resident, said City Clerk/Treasurer Nancy Zastrow.

In an interview with The Gazette, Account Finance Manager Connie DeKemper explained that the mistake happened while she was entering figures into the tax levy worksheet.

She discovered the problem later when she was unable to balance the city’s statement of taxes. The city learned of the mistake in January, and reported it to the state Department of Revenue.

Now the city is trying to iron out the problem. Mailing a repayment to each resident is not feasible because it would cost the city more than the actual mistake, Schuetz said.

Schuetz said the city plans to put the extra tax collection into a segregated account in the city’s fund balance, and staff is looking at ways it could use the money to “potentially reduce future levy increases.”

The Department of Revenue, which took several weeks to review the mistake, reported that filing rules became more complex this year, and 11 other communities in the state made similar mistakes this year, Schuetz said.

In a memo to the city council and Mayor Tom Chesmore, Schuetz called the tax overrun “an honest, unintentional calculation mistake.”

In separate statements, the mayor and Zastrow took responsibility for the mistake. Zastrow said the city has taken steps to guard against it happening again.

“I apologize for this error, and it has taught me and my staff that no documents or calculations leave our office without another set of eyes checking it,” Zastrow wrote in a memo.

Schuetz told the council this week that that the mistake “in no way appeared to be neglect of duty or lack of competence.” He said he doesn’t plan sanctions for employees involved in the error.

Last updated: 8:12 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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