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Wednesday, January 17, 2007
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A Loan?! How About a Refund!

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around how legislators think this is fair:

An Assembly committee today approved no-interest loans for Town of Oregon homeowners whose December property tax bills were $300 to $600 higher because of an error made by a state worker.

Last August, a state Department of Revenue official certified a number for Town of Oregon property that was $47 million higher than it should have been, unfairly boosting property tax bills because of a corresponding drop in state aid.
The error boosted town property tax bills for schools, and lowered them for Village of Oregon property owners - a shift normally corrected when the next property tax bills are mailed. But Dane County legislators and Town of Oregon property owners, who said they were upset by unexpectedly high property tax bills a few days before Christmas, asked the Legislature to do more.
The loans could total $578,000, if all town property owners applied for them, officials said. To repay the loans, property owners who got them would have those amounts added to their December tax bills, said Dane County Clerk Dave Gawenda.

I don't understand this.  If the bills were $300 - $600 higher than they should have been... don't you refund the money?  What's with the loan that has to get paid back?  Who's money is this anyway?

Would someone please explain this, because this looks like more government theft if you ask me.

# Posted at 1:31 PM by Nick  |  Comment Feed Link 6 Comments  |  No Trackbacks

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007 9:50:18 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Dane county?

Isn't that your answer?
Wednesday, January 17, 2007 10:40:01 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Is the Assembly headed by a banker?
Thursday, January 18, 2007 2:17:52 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
For some reason, and I don't know why, they couldn't do anything about the overpayment this year. Taxpayers will have to pay the overcharges now and have a lower tax bill next year.

Although I don't know why, I do know not to expect rationality or effective work from DOR.
Thursday, January 18, 2007 9:18:51 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Ok, I found it:

The data entry error caused the total assessed property value for the Town near Madison south of Madison to be $57 million higher than it should have been.

That resulted in residents getting higher tax bills than they really owed.

Revenue officials said that the law doesn't allow them to simply refund the money. So, state lawmakers are pushing a bill to give out no-interest leans.

So why don't they push a bill to change the law that prevents DOR from giving refunds when due?
Thursday, January 18, 2007 9:22:39 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
What an excellent question Jenna. The answer is obvious though... since they don't think it's your money in the first place, they think its rather foolish to do such a thing. In their minds, your paycheck is really just a loan from the government anyway, so this is no different.
Thursday, January 18, 2007 3:38:09 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
A refund idea sounds like it would work, but it wouldn't. That money simply isn't there to be refunded by the school district (and county and every other property-taxing authority other than the unaffected township itself). The overpayment from the town's property owners was at least mostly-matched by underpayments from everybody else (in the case of the school district, the village and the state).

That having been said, grafting this "instant gratification" scheme onto a flawed scheme to adjust the equalized value the following year potentially opens the door to a higher tax bill on the townsfolk. The equalized values are frozen months before the mill rates are known, so the DOR has to guess how much to temporarily drop the equalized values to provide the right amount of relief. If they overestimate this, then the hope that the repayment amount would be covered by the drop in taxes evaporates.

I'll also point out here that this "instant gratification" is being brought to the folks in the Town of Oregon by the same dolts that couldn't figure out for 3 months that they fouled up.
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