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Property tax rebate checks slow, but coming

Many residents in Crawford County have received their property tax rebate checks and the rest of the county can rest assured that if theirs isn’t in the mail, it will be before long.
According to the Crawford County Auditor’s Office, the refunds are being processed one township at a time. As of Thursday, refunds had been sent to homeowners in four townships: Boone, Jennings, Johnson “A” and Liberty. The office was processing checks for Ohio Township on Friday.
“All we can say to those who haven’t received theirs yet is to hold on a little longer,” Auditor Peggy Bullington said. “We’re typing as fast as we can.”
Many counties, like Harrison, who began sending out its refund checks last week, have computer programs that process the checks. But in Crawford County, the checks are still being processed using old typewriters.
“We can only type out three checks at a time,” Bullington said. “And with that many refunds, it takes a lot of time. We’ve asked for the equipment that would process the checks, but each time the county needs the money for more important things and we’re put on the back burner again. But we’ll manage, and people will just have to have patience. We’ll get the checks out as soon as we can. Everyone here is working really hard on this.”
The county expects to send out about 3,000 refund checks to homeowners. However, some residents who owe delinquent taxes may not get a refund or will get what’s left of their refund after the outstanding tax debt has been satisfied.
“The information goes to the Treasurer’s Office first,” Deputy Auditor Ricki Hawkins said. “They check for all delinquent real estate and personal property taxes. If they find no delinquent taxes are owed, everything is passed on to us, and we process the checks.”
To start the process, the state sends the county a formula. Then, that information is plugged into computers and the information is checked against an exemption list. It’s then checked against a rebate list before it finally goes to the Treasurer’s Office. The state sent about $302,000 in refund money to the Crawford County, which will be processed by the Auditor’s Office.
Harrison County began processing its rebates last week.
“We’ll be sending out about 10,800 refund checks,” Harrison County Auditor Pat Wolfe said. “The state sent us $1.2 million, and what is not used for refunds will be returned to the state.”
Refunds have already been sent to some townships and towns, including Laconia, Elizabeth, Milltown, Blue River and Boone townships, and Lanesville. Palmyra is being processed early this week, and then the office will start on Corydon and some of the larger townships.
Wolfe said the refunds will be sent to whoever the tax bill for the property was mailed to for 2006 — pay 2007.
“There’s a 5-percent penalty for those who are 30 days late in paying their tax bill,” Wolfe said. “After 30 days, the penalty increases to 10 percent. Any money owed will be deducted from their refunds.”
Handling of the refunds has also cost the counties money. Harrison County has already spent over $3,500 in labor costs and about the same amount for supplies in order to get the checks processed and in the mail. It often costs more to process some checks than the value of the checks themselves.
“Our largest refund so far has been about $1,000,” Wolfe said, “but we’ve actually sent out checks for as little as 3 cents. It cost us between $1.15 and $1.25 just to process them.”
Crawford County’s largest refund check so far has been about $1,300.
“Our smallest check so far was for $1.25,” Hawkins said. “I believe our average has been around $100.”
The Crawford County Auditor’s Office is working from a list and will send checks out in the order that the townships are listed. Next on the list is Patoka Township, followed by Sterling, Union, Whiskey Run, Alton, Carefree, English, Leavenworth, Marengo, Milltown, Wildridge and Johnson “B”.
Floyd County hasn’t sent any refunds out so far. According to the Auditor’s Office, a computer problem has held up the process, but the county hopes to begin sending out checks in the next few days.