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Snafu delays processing, mailing of Bel Air property tax bills

Real EstateLocal GovernmentNDS Group PlcLisa Moody

If you didn't get a Bel Air town property tax bill yet, the town wants to hear from you.

Town officials Monday disclosed a snafu in processing and mailing this year's property tax bills that delayed them getting to homeowners and business owners at the usual time.

Typically, the bills, which cover the new fiscal year beginning July 1, are received in the mail the first two or three days in July. That didn't happen this year, however, according to a statement read by Mayor Edward Hopkins at Monday night's town meeting.

"The mailing of town tax bills was delayed due to creating a new enhanced bill and outsourcing the printing and mailing of the bills," the statement read. "There was a delay at both the print house and the post office. If town taxpayers have not received their tax bills, they can call our finance office at 410-638-4555, and we can e-mail or mail a copy of the tax bill. We certainly apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

One town commissioners said after the meeting he did not become aware of the problem until Monday evening.

Town Administrator Chris Schlehr said he did not know exactly what caused the foul-up, but he said he believes every property owner should have received their bill by Saturday.

Finance Director Lisa Moody said Tuesday the town has about 4,300 property tax accounts.

Moody explained the late mailing resulted from a combination of factors including a communication breakdown between the print shop and the post of office and some additional enhancements her office made to the bills to provide more information to property owners.

"It was just a lot of change at one time," she said.

Moody said the town sewer bills, which are sent out quarterly to residences and monthly to businesses, have been processed through the same system since January and February without any problems.

Moody said the town does not intend to extend the normal discount period beyond July 31 – if the property tax bill is paid or postmarked by then, there is a 1 percent discount. The final due date of Sept. 30 also won't be extended, Moody said. Bills paid after that date incur a 1.5 percent per month penalty.

In addition, by law there is no forgiveness of taxes owed if a bill is not received, and a property can be put up for sale if taxes become delinquent.

In April, the Board of Town Commissioners approved a three-year contract with financial software company NDS to print and mail the town's sewer bills and statements and real estate tax bills. Moody said at the time that the arrangement would end the town's labor intensive practice of hand-stuffing and mailing the bills. Previously, the bills were printed by Harford County government and then the town staff stuffed them into envelopes by hand and mailed them, she said.

Moody had also said the town eventually hopes to move to paperless online billing and payment for various town services, including sewer fees and real estate taxes, and the new arrangement with NDS was expected to facilitate that change.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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