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Faulty data caused Munhall tax mix-up

Michael DiVittorio
| Friday, May 10, 2013, 4:51 a.m.

An attorney for Legal Tax Service said the agency has yet to determine how or why delinquency notices were sent to Munhall residents who already had paid their 2012 real estate taxes.

“We're still in the process,” general counsel Donald Fetzko said on Thursday.

The agency has said that the notices were based on skewed data provided by borough tax collector Donna Mercuri's office.

The mix-up resulted in hundreds of borough residents being incorrectly notified that their taxes were past due.

Fetzko said the data provided by Mercuri created the problem, and that his company made no mistake.

“We've been spending months trying to correct the database we received from the tax collector,” Fetzko said.

Residents complained about the problem at last month's council meeting, when it was revealed 1,207 notices were sent, 416 of them to residents who proved they had paid their taxes on time.

The delinquent amount was improperly reported to be $249,060.44.

“We sent out the letters from the data that was provided,” Fetzko said. “We must have taken 600 calls.”

He said the notices informed the property owners a lien would be filed if they did not pay their taxes by July 10.

Fetzko said there may be more than 416 residents who paid their taxes, and apology letters are being sent.

Councilman Dan Lloyd said last month that penalties totaling $24,906.04, and service fees totaling $8,320.88, have to be removed.

Mercuri and other borough officials met with Legal Tax Service in April to address the mishap.

Mercuri said the problem began when she was not able to download the list of paid and unpaid tax parcels from an old computer in her office.

A flash drive, and hard copies of paid taxes and delinquencies from the flash drive, were delivered to Legal Tax Service.

Mercuri's office later sent the company an amended list. Mercuri did not return a call on Thursday afternoon seeking comment.

Lloyd brought up the delinquent tax issue at Wednesday night's workshop meeting, referencing a $3,960 bill from Legal Tax Service.

After much discussion, the bill was stricken from the list of invoices scheduled to be approved at next Wednesday's council meeting.

Council president Joe Ballas said borough solicitor Greg Evashavik will review the contract with Legal Tax Service.

Ballas said the service charged the borough an attorney rate of $90 per hour to fix the mistake.

Ballas said he spoke with Legal Tax Service prior to the workshop, and there have been no further problems.

Fetzko said Legal Tax Service has a contract with the borough, not the tax collector, and Munhall was billed accordingly.

“The bill we received was legitimate and should be paid,” Lloyd said via email on Thursday. “It was my opinion that the cost should be borne by Donna Mercuri and not the Munhall taxpayers. She caused the mistake. Mr. Ballas can argue about how much was charged, but the costs are the costs.”

Tax collector is an elected position in Munhall.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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