A seemingly random typo, in the second it took to hit “enter,” erroneously over-valuated a single home in an unincorporated area of Wasatch County and now may wind up costing innocent county taxpayers dearly over the next few years.
The home in question, a 1,570-square-foot house built on two acres in 1978, actually only has a 2019 taxable value of $302,000, according to county property records. According to The Deseret News, the home was recorded in 2019 tax rolls with a market rate value of more than $987 million, with an overestimate of about $543 million in taxable value.
A meeting back in early November brought what is believed to have been a clerical error to light. Some believe the clerk possibly dropped a cell phone on the keyboard while entering the data, and now taxpayers may be on the hook for what might be years to come.
The error has caused a countywide overvaluation of more than $6 million, resulting in revenue shortfalls in five different Wasatch County taxing entities.
Wasatch County officials are apologizing to taxpayers, and promise to review policies and procedures hoping to prevent similar costly mistakes in the future. They’re also warning residents that taxpayers may see increased tax rates for upwards of three years to help make up for the lower amount collected in 2019 after budgets had already been approved anticipating the windfall of $6 million that was configured in error. County officials are working with the Utah State Tax Commission to figure out what to do.
A tax correction notice sent out by the county shows a budget shortfall of more than $1 million, which County Manager Mike Davis says will be offset with fund balance reserves to be recouped by rate increases in future years. Fire services, the parks and water departments will all be short hundreds of thousand dollars each, according to that notice.
The Wasatch County School District will suffer the biggest blow, short nearly $4.5 million, which will have a significant impact, although teacher and staff salaries will not be impacted this year, according to district spokesman John Moss.
Davis first noticed the costly error the first weekend of November when a citizen requested a property tax list and noticed the valuation looked way off. Davis says he then launched his own investigation and discovered the Assessor’s Office error, leading to the council’s call for the November 4th emergency meeting.
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