Columbia County’s tax office had an unusually high number of complaints about bigger tax bills this year after a three-year moratorium on reassessments ended.
Harry and Annette Humbert’s bill can top them all.
Monday, when the Humberts received this year’s tax notice for their modest two-story home in the Kingston subdivision near Grovetown, it included a serious case of sticker shock.
Because of a keying error in the Tax Assessor’s Office, their $200,000 home instead was valued at nearly $23 million.
When Annette Humbert opened the bill, “She said, ‘you gotta call somebody,’” Harry Humbert said. “Our taxes are for more than our house is worth.’”
The bill: $245,723.23, for a home purchased three years ago for less than $250,000.
“Twenty-two million is just a little out of my reach,” Humbert said.
He and his wife admitted they’d never opened this year’s tax notice when it arrived a couple of months ago, because they’d assumed it would be handled through escrow by their mortgage company.
Because they didn’t appeal the erroneous assessment, the inflated revenue figure wound up as part of the county’s final tax digest. After the Board of Assessors met Tuesday night to revise the tax bill, the local government entities basing their budgets on that figure had to scramble to make up for the paper loss.
School Superintendent Charles Nagle on Tuesday told school board members the revision would cut more than $158,000 from the revenue on which their recently completed budget was based. The hit came just a couple of weeks after the county let them know school system revenues also would be cut by $250,000 to make up for four years of overcharges to disabled veterans.
“I’m waiting on one of these errors to go in our direction,” Nagle said.
The erroneous bill was generated because of a clerk’s keying error, said Jeremy Roese, Columbia County’s deputy chief appraiser.
“They were reviewing the land records and instead of putting in 2.09 acres (for the Humbert property), the decimal and the zero are right next to each other, so it went in at 2009 acres,” Roese said.
“We should have caught it when we came out of the record, because it flags us and tells us how much money is on the parcel,” he said. “For some reason it wasn’t caught.”
After Humbert called, the county scrambled to correct the bill and sent out a new one for just under $2,100, Roese said – along with an apology.
“We hate that this happened,” he said. “We strive to do our best, but then we have this happen, and you’re like, ‘Ugh.’”
As for the homeowners, “We just kinda made a joke about it,” Annette Humbert said. “Bill Gates is gonna be jealous.”