News Column

Replacement Auburn property tax bills mailed Wednesday

September 3, 2014

By Scott Taylor, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine

Sept. 03--AUBURN -- Replacement tax bills with corrected amounts due went out in the mail Wednesday and should be arriving in city mailboxes Thursday and Friday.

City staff realized last week that about half of the real estate tax bills mailed out contained incorrect amounts due.

Rather then send replacement bills only to those with incorrect amounts due, City Manager Clinton Deschene said he and staff decided to send replacement bills to 9,325 Auburn real estate taxpayers.

The city has also pushed the due date for the first half of the bill to Oct. 1 because of the error.

Deschene said the error was discovered during a final check. The error occurred when the vendor hired to print the bills was given an incomplete database by Auburn city staff.

"It was up to staff to make sure we have the right checks and balances," Deschene said. "The database passed our first test, and it was sent off to the printer. But the final check occurs when staff uploaded the file to 'Munis' (the city's computer management system) to start collecting taxes. And the day they were doing that, they realized something was off."

Deschene said that's when he was notified that there were errors.

"Although the errors were caught and fixed, they were caught after the bills had been printed and mailed," Deschene said.

The result is that about 80 percent of the bills those taxpayers received were higher than what they actually owed. That represents 4,057 taxpayers.

Those taxpayers will see a reduced payment in the bills, which should be mailed next week, Deschene said. The remaining 845 property taxpayers will see their tax bills increase, compared to the incorrect bills. Deschene said 417 of those will see their tax bills increase by less than $20.

Deschene said he is writing a memo on the mistake for City Councilors. It will be included in his monthly manager's report and posted to the City's Website,

"There have been a lot of conversations about this," Deschene said. "Are we going to institute new policies? I think the existing policies and procedures are correct, it's just making sure they are fully adhered to and that proper communication and common sense are used. When you see an error, you need to notify the whole team."


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Source: Sun Journal (Lewiston, ME)

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