Tax collector assures exemptions will be applied
The Tax Collector’s office will review the files of all elderly taxpayers to see that exemptions have been applied, Ken Mallette said last week.
“We will compare files and check with the index cards,” the Tax Collector and Assessor said when asked if the office would take the initiative to find those taxpayers who haven’t received the exemptions they are entitled to.
The issue of exemptions arose soon after tax bills were mailed in June. Due to a computer program conversion, the bills do not contain a listing of exemptions, although in most cases they have been applied. Where the program failed is in situations where spouses are both entitled to an exemption and the first name on the property record matched that for the owner of a motor vehicle. In those cases, an exemption was applied to the motor vehicle. The exemption for the spouse should have been applied to the property, but wasn’t.
Mallette estimates 1,500 elderly taxpayers who are entitled to a $12,000 exemption on their real estate, which amounts to $415.20 in taxes, did not get it.
The office has made hand adjustments to bills in situations where people have called and the omission has been found. Going forward, he said, if exemption hasn’t been applied, the full amount would be deducted from future quarterly payments.
Mallette reported that all tax bills are out – there had been a delay in the mailing of some motor vehicle bills – and that the office is now tackling an “excessive volume” of returned bills for improper addresses.
He explained that the office used to have the Post Office forward bills to the new address of the payer, but doing it that way meant the city didn’t get the new addresses. Now the bills come back and the collector’s office tracks down the taxpayer. He said about 3,000 bills have been returned as undeliverable.
Mallette said the chance for a change in address is heightened by the time between when the address is recorded and when the bill is issued. Most of the returned bills are for motor vehicles. The city gets its records from the Department of Motor Vehicles as of the first of the year, as it is basing its bill on the vehicle ownership for the past year. However, the bill doesn’t get mailed until the following June and during that time people move.
In the bigger picture, Mallette said Munis, the company that developed the billing program, “fixes all the issues it created”; that the city gains access to the source code and makes corrections; or that “we kick Munis out.”
“We’re fully engaged with Munis,” chief of staff Mark Carruolo said yesterday. Following a conference call with the company on Thursday, Carruolo said the goal is to “get the system back to what they used to be.”
Carruolo estimated the city pays Munis about $200,000 for its system and that he expects the issues with programming to be corrected. Once that is accomplished, he said, the next step would be to determine how those deserving exemptions [it also applies to a $2,000 veterans exemption] who have not already received them, are notified.