Charleston Council Asks ‘Where’s the Property Tax Bills?’

November 14, 2011

Investigative Reports

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The NerveBy Warwick Jones
Citizen Reporter

Charleston County Council members wondered aloud during the Nov. 3 council meeting what on earth was going on at the auditor’s office. Where are the property tax bills for 2011?

They should have been out some weeks ago and the delay will also slow the collection of revenue. This will not only be inconvenient but municipalities and agencies that rely on tax revenue may have to borrow and incur interest expense to tide them over.

Council member J. Elliott Summey raised the issue at the end of the council meeting. In a speech laced with indignation and incredulity, he asked what county council could do about the delay.

He recognized that the auditor’s office was responsible and that the auditor – Peggy Moseley – was an elected official. He had been told to “shut up” about the issue but clearly was not prepared to do so any more.

Obtaining pertinent information from county staff with knowledge of the issue was a prolonged process. In summary, it seems that the new system and software are working properly.

The delay that has occurred reflects errors in the data that is being transferred from the old system, largely relating to the names of current property owners. These errors should be corrected within the next few days, council members were told.

But what struck members was the fact that of the 41 million records, only 5,500 were recognized as containing errors. And these errors related to only four municipalities.

All the errors in one of these municipalities have been corrected, staff said.

So members asked with good reason why the bills could not be sent out to citizens in the municipalities – which included the major ones – where all errors had been eliminated?

Council decided to wait a little longer and if the issue lingers the auditor will be asked to be present at the next finance committee meeting.