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Software glitch leads to erroneous $20 charge for thousands in Richmond

Posted at 10:21 PM, May 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-12 17:00:45-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The head of the City of Richmond Department of Finance said a software glitch caused 2,800 taxpayers to receive an erroneous $20 charge on their property tax bill, including Mayor Levar Stoney.

The $20 charge shows up on people's tax bills as a delinquent amount.

In a statement, the mayor said he was "irritated and annoyed."

"We will be sending a letter in the mail to each of the affected taxpayers," John Wack, the Director of Finance for the City of Richmond, said.

Wack said antiquated software used by the finance department led to the glitch, but his staff is quickly working to fix the issue.

"I've authorized overtime for staff to manually go through and take that $20 fee off of the affected taxpayers bills," he said.

Wack said they will also contacted the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles because that $20 delinquent amount means the DMV can place a hold on a person's ability to renew their driver's license.

Angela Jones, who lives on the city's Southside, said she could not believe it when she read her most recent personal property tax bill and found the $20 delinquent amount.

"I know I paid on time last year," Jones said.

Jones said she immediately contacted the city on Monday, and the woman on the other line told her they made a mistake and would remove the charge.

"She said it was a computer glitch," Jones said.

Still, she couldn't help but think about her neighbors.

"I think if it happened to me it may have happened to other people," Jones said.

Angela Jones

So she reached out to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers, and we contacted the city.

That's when Wack admitted “a $20 fee was mis-applied to a number of accounts."

Jones said she is relieved she checked her bill.

"Something told me this time to look and I did, and I'm glad I did," she added.

Wack said the finance department desperately needs new software to avoid errors like this one, but City Council opted not to pay for it this year, after the Mayor did include the $3.3 million software in his budget.

"Are you confident that people's bills in the City of Richmond by and large are accurate?" CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Wack.

"Yes ma'am. We have staff dedicated to make sure that we're sending our bills in a timely and accurate manner," Wack responded.

If you have a $20 delinquent amount on you property tax bill that you're not sure about, call 804-646-3822.

Here's a statement from a spokesperson in Mayor Levar Stoney's office:

"Like other residents who believed they did not owe a penalty, Mayor Stoney said he was irritated and annoyed. He said he expects better performance from City Hall, and he appreciates the swift action by the finance department to correct this mistake."