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Americus taxpayers overcharged

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June 27, 2006

Americus-- Nobody likes paying taxes. How would you feel if you knew you gave the government extra money that should have stayed in your pocket? That happened in Sumter County where commissioners are trying to fix a $600,000 mistake.

For the past five years, homeowners in Americus were overcharged on their property tax bills. Commissioners may have finally found a solution but some taxpayers aren't buying it.

David Andrews loves his butterbeans. "This afternoon, I shelled a bushel of peas and a bushel of butterbeans," says Andrews. As a retiree, this is how he spends many days.  But as he counts hundreds of green beans, he also counts his pennies as his bills continue to increase.

"City of Americus just increased water rates tremendously, double," says Andrews. And he's not a big fan of property taxes either.  "No, No, No," says Anderson.

Andrews had no idea he's been overcharged on his property tax bill. "I'm totally not surprised," says Andrews. But it did come as a shock to County Administrator Lynn Taylor.  She found the mistake in July.  House Bill 489 mandated governments use a formula to prevent cities and counties from having duplicate services.  Taylor says the formula they used was flawed.

"There was a mathematic calculation that was supposed to have used the city of Americus digest. Instead, the county's digest was used," says Taylor. And that mistake was duplicated for five years. 

Taxes in Americus weren't rolled back as much as they should have been so now 600-thousand dollars has to be returned to taxpayers. But it's not as easy as writing a check. A possible solution will be rolling back taxes on this year's tax bill about 2.5 mils.

"It's felt that this would be the quickest way to get the money back to the taxpayers," says Taylor.

"Is that what you call taking from Peter to pay Paul?," asks Andrews. Andrews isn't buying the solution.

"They've had my money. They got my money. The've overcharged me. Now they're going to tell me they're rolling the taxes back. Send me a check and let me pay my taxes," says Andrews.

He says he wants to see a check in his hand and as he continues his daily bean tradition of dropping shells in a bucket, he hopes he doesn't continue throwing away another kind of green. "Where's the money going?," asks Andrews.

Sumter County Commissioners agreed Monday night to file a tax extension of 30 days to set the general tax rate and handle the tax overcharge.

The next 30 days will be spent with attorneys to make sure rolling back taxes to repay homeowners is the best and legal way.

Lynn Taylor says the money will come from the county's reserves.

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