BISBEE — An error in the secondary tax rate for Willcox property owners was found by the state, and now Cochise County has to reset the rate at zero and figure out how to refund the money already paid.
In a special meeting Tuesday, Board of Supervisors members Peggy Judd, Ann English and Pat Call all agreed the responsibility for erroneously collecting a secondary tax rate of 0.8497 for Willcox was solely on the administration’s shoulders, not county Treasurer Catherine Traywick’s.
“We own this error,” said Judd. “We need to publicize it, and let people know it was not the county treasurer.”
The secondary tax was levied to pay back a loan for a police substation and it was paid off in July, noted County Administrator Ed Gilligan. So the secondary tax should not have been carried forward from last year. The problem is all the tax notices have been sent out and some tax payments have been received.
Traywick was understandably not happy with the way tax rates for municipalities were handled. While her office staff double-check the county’s and special districts’ tax rates, municipal rates are not reviewed. She does not receive that information.
“My office needs to get all the tax rate sheets. We need to get it all before it goes before the supervisors and before it goes to print,” remarked Traywick.
The supervisors and administrative staff agreed to provide the rates to Traywick for review in the next tax cycle and to work closely with the treasurer’s office.
“We will formalize submitting the required documents to the Treasurer’s office and all the cities’ tax rates will be reviewed prior to adoption by the supervisors,” stated Gilligan.
Finance Director Lynette Nowlan assured Traywick, “We will share everything from now on.”
Traywick said those taxpayers who have not yet paid, still need to pay the primary tax rate. If a property owner pays at one of the county satellite offices, they will not have to pay the secondary tax. Her staff has already made the corrections in the system. They can also call her office and get the correct amount of their tax payment.
New bills will be mailed to 4,918 parcel owners reflecting the change, Traywick added. The effort will also cost more in staff time.
English told her if overtime was required to correct the situation, “The board is willing to offset those costs. We take responsibility for it.”
The supervisors unanimously approved the change in the secondary tax rate and set it at zero.
Caleb Blaschke, Willcox city manager, told the supervisors at a special meeting held Oct. 23, “I’m grateful you’re looking into this, and happy that it is being corrected.”
He also said he wanted the tax roll to be sent to him for staff review prior to adoption.
Though the zero tax rate was approved, there was still the problem of the overcharged Willcox taxpayers. So Traywick suggested the taxpayers receive a refund, or they can have the amount apply to the second half of their tax payment.