Payne County Taxpayer Refunds Mired In Bureaucratic Muck

Thursday, June 30th 2011, 12:04 am
By: News 9

Dana Hertneky, News 9

STILLWATER, Oklahoma -- Thousands of Oklahomans were over billed on their property taxes.

More than 3,400 people in Payne County are owed money, anywhere from $1 to $6,000. All totaled, residents were over billed $207,000. 

And many of those people say they are still having problems getting their money back.

Patrick Elliott is one of them. In a typical year, Elliott pays $25 dollars in property taxes for a piece of land in rural Payne county. Last year he was billed $835 dollars.

"You're told you're supposed to pay the tab and go on from there.  There's not a lot of choice if they're not willing to re-look at it," said Elliott.

But after taking over as the Payne County assessor in January, James Cowan did review assessments.

He found 3,448 similar cases of people who were over billed on their property taxes last year because the assessor's software wasn't used properly.

"We're finding that about one in every three accounts we went to had a problem," said Cowan.

Cowan said he's trying to refund everyone's money, but he's not getting cooperation from the rest of the county, specifically the county treasurer.

"There's heel dragging, getting extra opinions, coming back on the state auditors form, nitpicking one extra spot saying they can't process it because of this," said Cowan.

For Elliott, it means he still hasn't received the $809 he's owed and was promised months ago.

"They just keep coming up with excuses.  They want us to refile the same piece of paper.  We do, then it's not rounded to the nearest penny or the nearest dollar so they're not going to give it to us again," said Elliott.

The Payne county treasurer argues that there were some problems with the original claims from the assessor's office and right now she's just trying to make sure everything is legal.