Local News

Audit Finds Durham Residents Taxed At Wrong Rate

Posted April 3, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— A countywide audit found 55 Durham homeowners either paid too much in property taxes, or did not pay enough.

Durham leaders decided to have the county's tax rolls audited after they discovered that residents of Lakehurst and Chancellor's Ridge were paying the wrong property tax rate.

Bill Louis was taxed at the wrong property rate during the confusion over the Lakehurst annexation. The mistake cost Louis an extra $1,500 last year, and prompted a countywide audit.

"I got up one morning and read the paper and found, lo and behold, we're not in the county, we're in the city," Louis says.

Louis sympathizes with the homeowners who are about to find out they owe the county money.

"I feel for them," Louis says. "I think if it happens again, since they are aware of what is happening in the city now, then they've got some legal groundwork."

The audit discovered 55 mistakes. Thirty-seven homeowners owe the county property taxes, while 18 are due refunds.

"The total of those who overpaid was in the neighborhood of $101,000," says Wendell Davis, Deputy County Manager. "It was $79,600 for those who underpaid."

County officials say the mistakes are probably due to clerical errors. There is no pattern to them. The 55 parcels are spread out all over the county.

The independent auditors say the mistakes only affect a fraction of the county's tax roll.

"It's the old slip through the cracks. Less than one-tenth of one percent," says auditor Jim Henry. "I make that many mistakes. We all do."

Durham leaders say all 85,000 parcels in the county are properly coded now. Residents should not find any mistakes when their tax bills come out in July.

Some of the mistakes date back to the 1960s, but the county will only collect what's due for the last six years.