$1.3 million tax break a clerical mistake

EUGENE, Ore. — The top taxpayer in Lane County briefly got a big break on its property taxes.

County Assessor Mike Cowles said an employee entered an incorrect value for an account belonging to International Paper Co., which owns and operates a Springfield mill. The clerical error reduced its property tax bill by $1.3 million — from $4 million to $2.7 million.

It was International Paper that alerted Lane County about the error. A spokesman for the company declined comment.

Cowles said there’s always a small chance for error when county staff members enter tax data into the computer system manually. In a typical tax year, he said, his office will see a few mistakes later identified by property owners or through audits.

“It happens to be a high-profile account,” he told The Register-Guard newspaper. “The bottom line is we strive for the most accurate tax roll within the constraints of human nature and the computer system.”

Cowles said he viewed the gaffe as a “learning experience” and the worker who made the error was not disciplined.

According to state law, International Paper can’t be billed for the tax owed until this year’s tax statements go out in late October. Public agencies counting on the money for their current budgets must wait.

Bob Duey, finance director for the city of Springfield, said the error will temporarily cost the city about $400,000. That money goes to pay for day-to-day government operations and levies that provide additional funding for the fire and police departments.

But Duey said his staff had been conservative when estimating the amount of property tax it would receive. Even without the owed tax dollars, Duey said, property tax collections to the city have so far matched what it projected to receive.

“The actual hit wouldn’t be as great as if we were counting on the high return, or the higher amount of property taxes, this year,” he said.

More in Local News

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Trail work by juvenile offenders builds resumes, confidence

Kayak Point trails were built out this year by groups from Denney Juvenile Justice Center.

Volunteers clean up homeless camp infested with garbage

The organization’s founder used to live and do drugs in the same woods.

Families begin relocating from public housing complex

Baker Heights is in need of repairs deemed to costly to make, and will be demolished and replaced.

Everett mayoral campaign is one of the priciest ever

Many campaign donors are giving to both Cassie Franklin and Judy Tuohy.

Arrests made in robbery-turned fatal Everett shooting

A man, 24, and woman, 18, were found at a hotel in Seattle.

3 fire departments seek levies to support emergency services

District 25 in Oso is hoping to pass its first fire levy in 22 years.

Flooding still a concern on Snohomish River

Flood warning in effect until Monday afternoon for Monroe and Tuesday morning for Snohomish.

Front Porch

JUST FOR YOUTH Build with balloons Youth in fourth grade and up… Continue reading

Most Read