Editor, The end of the year comes with the very important duty for the Tax Commissioner’s Office to issue property tax notices to our property owners. With a relatively late adoption of the required millage rates by our levying authorities, there is not much room for error if we are to bill in a manner to allow taxpayers who desire to pay by Dec. 31 the opportunity to do so.
We were able to make available — and began collecting — 2015 property taxes on Dec. 11. With many property owners wanting to pay by the end of the year, an article printed by the Coastal Courier was a great help in notifying our citizens of payment options available prior to receiving a tax notice. This article informed taxpayers that they could obtain their tax amount, print their tax notice, and pay online and informed them to contact our office so that my staff and I may assist in providing a tax notice or other tax information.
At the time of presenting this letter to the editor, there are still a large number of property owners who have not received their tax notice in the mail, including me. Once it appeared that some received their notice and others did not, and that tax notices were taking too long to reach property owners, I began reaching out daily to all parties involved requesting answers. Our vendor completed printing and preparing our mail on Dec. 18, which is also the date that the initial 19,500-plus tax notices were delivered to and processed for mailing by Pitney Bowes in Atlanta. The remaining 6,700-plus were processed by Pitney Bowes on Monday, Dec. 21. From there, Pitney Bowes states that all mail was delivered each day to their local post office.
Now that all fingers point to the post office, unfortunately, we have not been able to get many answers or much help there. My attempts to speak by phone to someone in authority in the Atlanta post office have been unsuccessful. My printing-vendor representative assured me that he has personally walked the Pitney Bowes facility and visited the receiving post office to assure that our mail is not somewhere sitting idle. The best answer we finally received from a supervisor is that there was an “internal system processing error” around the Christmas holiday that attributed to a delay in some Atlanta mail.
As tax notices continue to slowly reach some property owners, the post office cannot offer any assurance that these delayed notices will reach the addressees. They are unable to tell us which notices have been delivered successfully and where pieces of mail are currently. Therefore, my office is in the process of reissuing tax notices for all properties that have not yet been paid. Also, with an initial due date of Feb. 15, it is only fair that we give these notices an extended due date.
Regardless of what has happened, I as your tax commissioner accept responsibility, and I offer my apology to anyone who has been affected by these events. We will continue our efforts to provide the current tax notices and provide for a fair opportunity for each taxpayer to pay. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Virgil M. Jones
Liberty County Tax Commissioner