WV - Ticketed off: Some taxpayers seeing double - or worse

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Ticketed off: Some taxpayers seeing double - or worse Poor print job causing problems in Kanawha Thursday August 24, 2000

By Chris Schnaars STAFF WRITER

The taxman cometh, but some Kanawha County taxpayers are having trouble seeing him.

The Kanawha County Sheriff's Tax Office and the Assessor's Office have fielded hundreds of calls from people complaining about their tax tickets.

The printing on some of the tickets is so light that people cannot read them. Others have complained that they have gotten a dozen or more copies of the same tax ticket.

"I just marched myself right up there, but not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to do that," said Alice Baldwin of St. Albans.

Baldwin got six tax tickets from the Kanawha County Sheriff's Tax Office this year. None of the tax tickets was duplicated, but the printing on four of them was so light, she had to go to the Tax Office to find out how much she owed.

"I don't even know how the post office delivered them because they weren't legible," Baldwin said.

Michael Cook, communications director for the Tax Office, said he believes illegible tickets were caused by a printer that has been replaced. He said that because most of the layers are printed with carbons, there is no way to know how dark the print is without opening the tickets. When ink ribbons used to print the top copies ran out, they were replaced.

Cook said that whenever there was a printer error or a jam, the printer sometimes started the print job over, resulting in duplicates.

"This year was certainly a learning experience, and next year we've already decided we need to look at this and put some safeguards in place," Cook said.

Sallie Robinson, a receptionist in the Assessor's Office, said more than 100 people have called that office, complaining about the tickets. Robinson said she talked to one woman who said she received 30 copies of the same ticket.

Assessor Phyllis Gatson said she talked to one woman who got 12 copies of the same ticket.

The Assessor's Office is responsible for determining the value of property that is taxed, but the Sheriff's Tax Office is responsible for printing and mailing the tickets.

"I have caught more flak about that because people think I send out the tax tickets, and I don't know what caused the problem," Gatson said.

Gatson said duplicate tickets would not affect anyone's tax liability, and she said Tax Office employees would notice if someone overpaid his or her taxes.

Cook said he could not be sure someone did not receive as many as a dozen or even 30 copies of the same ticket, but he said that was doubtful. He suggested someone may have counted the three sheets in one tax ticket as three copies.

Cook did not know on Wednesday how many tax tickets were mailed but said the county should have sent about 200,000 tax tickets. He estimated there were problems with 2 to 5 percent of the tickets.

Each form cost six cents and required 28 cents postage, he said.


-- Doris (reaper1@mindspring.com), August 24, 2000

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