A “glitch” has turned up on about 1,500 City of Falls Church delinquent personal property tax notice sent out from the Treasurer’s Office at City Hall to citizens last week, the F.C. City Council learned at its work session Monday night. For everyone past due with their so-called “car tax” payment, they were assessed not only a 10% late payment penalty, but another $20 for a “collection fee.”
The $20 portion was erroneously included on all notices of late payment penalties. That fee is supposed to be assessed only if a unpaid bill reverts to a collection agency, which would not happen to any of the bills until the end of December, the Council was told.
Ironically, it was a Council member, Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry, who brought the problem to the attention of City Hall. Hockenberry, who was acting as mayor in the absence of Mayor Robin Gardner Monday, got her delinquent payment notice, noticed the added $20 charge, and started asking questions.
So far, according to the City CFO John Tuohy, about 30 refunds have been provided out of an estimated 1,500 delinquent notices sent out. The City Treasurer’s Department placed an advertisement in this edition of the News-Press alerting citizens to the problem and that they might be entitled to a refund if they pay their tax before Nov. 29. Treasurer Alice Casayuran asks persons to contact her office at (703) 248-5046 to clarify the exact amount due.
Tuohy said that the number of delinquent notices sent out is a rough estimate based on historical patterns. The estimate of 1,500, out of a total of 8,300 bills issued (one per vehicle in the City), is “par for the course” for the number of people who do not pay their taxes on time, he said.
The deadline for persons to have their City decals posted on their vehicles is Nov. 15. The decals are confirmation that the annual personal property tax has been paid.
Fairfax County no longer requires decals on vehicles of county residents.
The billing problem emanating from City Hall in Falls Church is just the latest case this year. Citizens complained last spring of uneven and erroneous patterns of billing for water use. The City explained the problem had something to do with a shortage of meter readers beginning last fall that resulted in the need to bill on the basis of estimates from prior use patterns, rather than actual readings.