Taxpayers: If the Town Errs, Report It

Last month, the Village of Southampton discovered that $690,000 in real estate taxes owed by over 104 people had gone unpaid since 2004. It was not that people hadn’t sent in the money owed. It was the fact that the Village had never sent out the proper amount owed in these people’s tax bills.

All of these people were people who had gotten building permits to improve their houses, added on to them, or, in one case, actually built a new house, and then saw that their taxes didn’t go up as they should have.

Wouldn’t you think that each of these taxpayers would have called up the Village and said they had not received their tax increase? It boggles the mind that there are over 104 people, felons actually, since they are without a doubt accessories to the crime of negligence, who should be in jail today for what they did.

Village Administrator Stephen Funsch told the Southampton Press that they had found this big crack in the tracking of property improvements system that these 104 people had fallen into. The Mayor, Mark Epley, told a reporter there that they are making upgrades to the network and upgrading the technology and the system so this can never happen again. A closer look, however, shows what really happened is that a lowly but unnamed village clerk, described as “inept” by the trustees, began in 2004 to close the books on the posted building permits on the 27th of the month and never tracked the last few days. He or she did this for six years.

The Village intends to re-bill these lost taxes to the fullest extent of the law. But it turns out there’s a state law which says that for a mistake like this, you can only go back in the rebilling for one year. It’s not like with your income taxes where if you made a mistake during the Reagan Administration and they find it today you get hit with the principal, interest and penalties for 30 consecutive years, though generally the statute of limitations is seven years.

As a result, the Village says it can only bill for a total of $156,000 or near that because with inflation and current assessment levels and the dates of when the improvements were completed and the change in the way things are counted since 2004, it will take some time to come up with the exact number.

So here again is this very important rule to remember in Southampton Village. If you build an addition on your house and the village taxes don’t go up as a result of it, call the Village immediately and demand to know what’s going on. This glitch in the system cannot be allowed to happen again.

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