False tax bills haunt former city residents

Posted at 12:42 AM, Nov 02, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-02 07:46:23-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Andy and Jen Waldrop are a busy New England couple; two kids, two cars, and a house under construction.

But their biggest frustration is an outstanding tax bill from the City of Richmond, a bill they say they do not owe.

“They say we owe taxes for a full year of 2010 even though we registered our vehicle for a month in 2010,” Andy Waldrop told CBS 6.

DMV records supplied by the Waldrop’s support their claim; that in 2010, they only lived in Richmond for a month. Yet they got a $200 dollar tax bill. 

But the Waldrop’s complaint is about more than money. They say they’ve been treated unfairly and fear others are being treated the same.

“Why is it taking so long and why can't we just get someone to help us? One person with a 5 minute phone call to the DMV could fix this?” Waldrop questioned.  

As the couple now lives in Boston, they cannot simply go down to city hall to fix the problem in person – they are forced to call.

However, according to Jen Waldrop, out of fifteen phone calls over the past year, they have only been able to speak to a person just three times.

“Those people were never able to help me with my problem,” she said.

According to an internal audit conducted by the City of Richmond in April of 2012, the Finance Department is an office that “needs improvements” to fix “poor customer service.”

Sharon Judkins, deputy chief administrator for the City of Richmond who oversees the department, admitted that the office has had its struggles.

“We have had several problems in the area of finance,” Judkins said.

Some of those problems include understaffing. In the last five years, five people have held two senior leadership positions in the Department of Finance.

Other problems include failing to update the office’s computer technology.

“We’ve had some challenges. One was because we missed some of our upgrades,” Judkins said.

Judkins was brought on by the City in March to fix some of these problems. She previously worked in similar administrative positions in California.

“I understand customer’s frustration with that and we’re working with the DMV and now we’re accessing their records more frequently,” Judkins said.

Judkins says the office has brought on five people in the last several months to improve customer service and says she is committed to improving the office’s overall image.  

CBS 6 will continue to monitor the Department’s progress. As of November 1, 2012, the Waldrops have not been able to contact anyone in the city who can address their outstanding bill.