Rossville Mayor Johnny Baker called the meeting after his city faced troubles last year when a company mailed the wrong property tax bills to residents. Baker wants to work with other cities to prevent such problems.
About the upcoming meeting, Chickamauga City and Utilities Manager John Culpepper said, “We’ll do anything we can do to save the taxpayers’ money. I always like to hear what other people have to say. You can always pick up some good ideas.”
The meeting is set for Wednesday, Jan. 21, at 10 a.m. in the Rossville Civic Center.
Tailored Business Systems, or TBS, of Statesboro prepares the property tax bills for Rossville, LaFayette and Lookout Mountain. Walker County and Chickamauga used to contract with TBS, but in recent years switched to Ringgold-based VisiCraft Systems Inc.
Baker said the city was unable to retrieve a tax digest, or list of taxable properties, from the TBS system, so he went to Walker Tax Commissioner Carolyn Walker for assistance.
“I was able to print that for him and help him collect taxes until he could get his bills straightened out,” Walker said.
Baker penned a letter to county and city officials in early December expressing his concern about the “property tax nightmare.” On Dec. 30, he sent another letter to schedule a meeting with officials to coordinate tax billing efforts throughout the county.
In his letter, Baker said considering a different computer system and working with other municipalities could avert another disaster like the one his city faced last year.
LaFayette City Manager Johnnie Arnold said TBS pulled the wrong information from the Walker County tax assessor’s computer system after the assessor switched formats.
The county used to provide the city with a magnetic tape, which was forwarded to TBS to create the tax bills, Arnold said. Now, the county provides that information to TBS via the Internet, he said.
Arnold said the city delayed mailing about 60 days because the bills did not match the tax digest, although the delay did not place much of a burden on LaFayette.
“Our property taxes are so low, and in comparison to the total budget, it’s such a small amount of money,” Arnold said. “We couldn’t do without it all year long, but a month or two doesn’t really hurt us.”
Lookout Mountain City Clerk Mary Katherine Harper said the city has had its share of trouble with TBS. She said the problems put the city in a financial bind as it struggled to repay loans.
“(TBS) apparently sat on a bad disk of information for about a month without calling anyone,” Harper said. “They pulled the file from last year (like Rossville), but ours were stopped in the mail room. About 148 of the bills were incorrect, and our people still haven’t gotten the corrected bills.
“I’ve wasted hours doing refund checks, making phone calls to people and adjusting my digest,” she said.
VisiCraft’s Ringgold location adds to the convenience of their package because it allows for prompt support and service, Tax Commissioner Walker said.
Chickamauga was the first in the county to switch to VisiCraft in 2001, Culpepper said, adding the city switched because of software incompatibilities.
“It was causing a lot of extra work,” Culpepper said. “My staff was having to do a lot of work by hand like it was done 30 years ago. That was the only thing in City Hall we didn’t have on the computer.”
Walker said it would probably be better if everyone used the same system. “The more we all work together with the assessor’s office just makes for a smoother operation,” she said