Huntington County owes several area property owners more than $60,000 in overpaid property taxes, prompting the county auditor to push for a new tax software provider.
A problem with the MVP taxing software provided by Thomson Reuters caused five Huntington County properties to be overcharged a collective $90,203, Huntington County Auditor Cindy Yeiter said. Although about $28,642 has already been refunded to cover overbilling for the past two years, it’s not clear when or if the Huntington County Council plans to refund the remaining $61,561.
The overcharges have been happening since 2010, Yeiter said. Current tax bills will reflect the updated calculations, Yeiter added.
The state of Indiana earlier this year required Thomson Reuters to correct the error, Yeiter said. However, she said she wants to switch to a new program to avoid the problem in the future. Yeiter also said she is unhappy with the level of customer service provided by Thomson Reuters.
The two properties hit hardest are Our Sunday Visitor, which was overcharged a total of $67,461.62, and Life Church, which is owed $20,586.12. Other properties affected are Northpointe, Sprinkle and the Knights of Columbus. Northpointe and Sprinkle have already been paid what they are owed, Yeiter said.
Our Sunday Visitor is a Catholic publishing company in Huntington.
"In a nutshell, it boils down to Life Church has Cafe of Hope in the building. It is a money-making establishment so therefore that portion of the building should only receive a 3 percent cap," Yeiter wrote in a letter sent to The Journal Gazette last month. "(Thomson Reuters’) system did not comply with state laws and therefore the overbilling occurred."
Our Sunday Visitor has been paid $27,068, Yeiter said, leaving an outstanding $40,393 still owed.
But to return the money, the Huntington County Council must vote to do so. That’s because the outstanding balances consist of charges older than the three cycles that were corrected, Yeiter said.
She noted that she plans to have the council discuss repayment at its meeting on July 18.
A message left for Huntington County Council President Kendall Mickley on Friday was not immediately returned.
Kyle Hamilton, president of Our Sunday Visitor, said the company was made aware of the error on Friday, but isn’t concerned.
"We have a great relationship with the city and the county here," Hamilton said. "I’m comfortable and confident that it will be resolved and corrected in the future. It shouldn’t be a problem."
There’s a way to make sure this doesn’t happen again – switch to a new tax software, Yeiter said. Yeiter prefers software from Low Associates. In addition to providing better customer service and reducing the chance of major errors, switching software will enhance her office’s efficiency, Yeiter said.
The county’s current tax software takes about two days to calculate rolling assessed value. With the software provided by Low Associates, Yeiter said that time would drop to about three hours. The Thomson Reuters program takes 1.5 weeks to calculate maintenance fees for improvements to land drainage. Yeiter said the Low Associates program does that automatically. Other processes that currently take between two and four weeks to complete would be finished in a matter of days with the new software, Yeiter said.
Yeiter said she’s ready to switch, but other department heads aren’t so sure.
"There are some departments that have changed back and forth on their opinion of whether they wanted to go to this," Yeiter said. "Truthfully, the only ones using the system are the treasurer and the auditor."
Another hurdle is cost. At $209,272, the Low Associates software is more expensive than what’s provided by Thomson Reuters. However, Yeiter said Thomson Reuters requires users to purchase the new version of the software each time it is updated. Low Associates does not require agencies to purchase updates, Yeiter said.
The County Council plans to meet with department heads on Tuesday to discuss the potential switch. A vote on the matter is planned for July 18.