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Glitch overestimates seniors' tax bills

An error in a new city computer program resulted in overly high estimates for monthly tax prepayments for some White Rock seniors – but they
An error in a new city computer program resulted in overly high estimates for monthly tax prepayments for some White Rock seniors – but they're going to have to fix the problem themselves, according to city staff.
— image credit: File photo

Senior homeowners in White Rock should take a close look at their most recent property-tax notice, particularly if their estimate for monthly automated prepayment is dramatically larger.

The good news for some is that the amount withdrawn doesn’t have to be as high as was estimated – in some cases a 50 per cent jump.

The bad news is that they will have to fill out an adjustment form if they want to change it – even though staff acknowledge it’s a city error.

Lynne Galpin and her husband, Lloyd, were alarmed when they noticed that their monthly payments for a 10-month period on their Blackwood Street condo were set to go up in August from just over $62 to $94.

Comparing notes with other residents of their building, they found that others had also received a similar unexpected bump in estimated pre-payments.

Acting chief administrative officer Greg St. Louis said Friday that the estimates – which went out to some senior residents throughout the city, did not take into account the seniors’ grant for which they are eligible.

“We’ve switched over to a new computer program, and the grant amount wasn’t taken into consideration,” he explained.

St. Louis said it is not known how many people received the erroneous estimate, although it’s believed to be a small number.

“It could be a few,” he said, adding that the notices went out throughout White Rock – not just the Galpins’ building.

Unfortunately, he said, rectifying the error in the seniors’ estimates is not as simple as the city changing the amount.

“They have to come in and sign a form – we’re not allowed to set an amount for withdrawal without their authorization,” he said.

He pointed out that residents can choose to keep the estimated withdrawal amount and wind up with a credit.

Galpin, who received a phone call from director of financial services Sandra Kurylo in response to her inquiry, said she accepts the explanation – but wonders whether the city could be doing more to let people know the error occurred.

“The print is so tiny on the notices,” she said. “If nobody’s looking at the fine print, they wouldn’t know until the amount started coming out of their bank account.”

 

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