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Updated: San Marino Residents Overcharged for Public Safety Tax

Los Angeles County will be sending out corrected tax bills and reimbursements to thousands of residents in San Marino who were overcharged for the 2011-12 public safety tax.

Updated Thursday, 11:30 a.m.:

The Los Angeles County tax division has admitted to overcharging thousands of San Marino residents for the 2011-12 public safety tax on the most recent statement that went out last Wednesday.

Division Chief of the Auditor-Controller’s Property Tax Division Arlene Barrera told Patch Thursday that corrected tax bills and reimbursements will be sent out in the coming weeks.

"Corrected tax bills--I think we are shooting for early next week--and the refunds need to be generated by another department so we are confirming with them, hopefully within the next couple weeks," Barrera told Patch.

As of Thursday morning about 98 people had paid their tax bills, Barrera said, so there will not be a large amount of refunds issued. Corrected tax bills and letters of explanation will be sent out to roughly 4600 San Marino residences.

Barrera said although the City of San Marino sent the county a resolution saying the public safety tax amount was not being raised from the 2010-11 amount, someone at the county input the incorrect, higher amount that ended up on resident's statements.

"Typically it's one person [who] will do input and comparison on the resolution and it appears it was just missed," said Barrera. 

A similar situation happened in another city about six years ago, Barrera said, and the county mailed out corrected tax bills.

Original story, broken by San Marino Patch, posted Wednesday night:

Though the San Marino City Council voted in June to maintain the 2010-11 fiscal year public safety tax amount and not raise it by 5 percent, two residents claimed at last week’s San Marino City Council meeting that they were charged the higher amount anyway. City reps said they would look into the matter.

A resident, who chose not to have his name published, addressed the council and pointed out that the amount he was charged on his statement did not match the amount the city council approved residents in his zone be charged for the public safety tax.

The public safety tax accounts for about 27 percent of the and s and is up for a renewal vote as on the November ballot.

Another resident at the meeting, who lives in a different residential zone, said she was also overcharged and the two residents wondered if everyone in the city had been overcharged by 5 percent on their public safety tax statement.

If all San Marino residences were overcharged, it makes for a total of over $128,000 in incorrect charges.

San Marino finance Director Lisa Bailey said at the meeting that this was the first the city had heard about the public safety tax overcharge, but added that the city will look into it.

"Class Action Lawsuit"

“Sounds like a class-action lawsuit to me,” said San Marino City Councilman Richard Ward.

City attorney Steve Dorsey also took the matter seriously at last Wednesday’s meeting, saying he believed the county would be responsible for the overcharge and the city will need to investigate.

When one of the overcharged residents asked the council what amount she should pay—the incorrect amount on her statement or the council-approved amount--Vice Mayor advised paying the amount on the statement.

Residents are charged varying amounts for the public safety tax, depending on what San Marino zone they live in.

See the documents attached to this article for a breakdown of what San Marino residents in different zones should be paying for the 2011-'12 public safety tax. If your statement is charging you more, tell us in the comment box below.

When Patch followed up with Bailey Wednesday, she said the city asked city council members to bring in their recent public safety tax statements to confirm the error, and all of the city council members had been overcharged. In one instance, a council member was undercharged for a previous year’s public safety tax, said Bailey.

The city has also since contacted the county about the error.

Patch followed up with the county Wednesday and was referred to Arlene Barrera, Division Chief of the Auditor-Controller’s Property Tax Division, who called back and left a message but was unavailable when Patch returned her call.

Patch is continuing to follow up with the county to find out who was responsible for the error and how overcharged San Marino residents will be refunded.

Were you overcharged for the public safety tax on your most recent statement? How do you feel about residents beign overcharged? Tell us in the comment box below.

Ron Johnson October 20, 2011 at 02:35 PM
I live in Res1 and was charged $1,125 that appears to be $111 over the approved amount.
Jessica Hamlin October 20, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Hi Ron, Yes, you were overcharged. $1,125 is the amount you would be charged with the 5% increase that was not approved, according to city projections of what a 5% increase would equate to for different residence zones. Thank you for letting us know you are affected. It's important for residents to check what they were charged and see if it's different than the approved amounts.
Ron Johnson October 20, 2011 at 05:57 PM
Actually 5% over would be $1064.70, I was charged 11% over the approved rate of $1,014. The problem is that it isn't worth the time to fight with the tax assessor.
Jessica Hamlin October 20, 2011 at 06:08 PM
Actually, I just spoke with the county assessor and she said they are aware of the issue and will be sending out corrected tax bills and reimbursements. I'll be posting an updated story shortly, so stay tuned.
Louis R. Reyes October 28, 2011 at 08:57 PM
Hello. I just want to point out a correction. The Los Angeles County Assessor's office only does property appraisals and puts a valuation on the County's property roll. We do not send out bills or collect taxes. http://assessor.lacounty.gov
Jessica Hamlin October 28, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Thanks, Louis. The article correctly identifies Arlene Barrera as the Division Chief of the Auditor-Controller’s Property Tax Division, but I incorrectly referred to her as the "county assessor" in this comment thread.
Ron Johnson October 28, 2011 at 09:34 PM
I received my new property tax statement today and they reduced the amount to $1,071 and not the $1,014 that it should be. Seriously they can't even get it right the second time?
Sparky October 30, 2011 at 11:36 PM
They overcharged me as well, and all my neighbors, and we've received revised tax bills. However, Measure S is up for everyone to vote down this time around. In the Sample Ballot, Gene Ruckh explains that San Marino is used to "retire out" senior officials in the CALPERS retirement to take advantage of the money we pay. So we've had retirement after retirement in the last few years of police and fire chiefs even though they promised not to do that. It's the County system at work, and this needs to be shut down so it doesn't balloon out of control.
Jessica Hamlin November 03, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Hi Ron, The $1,071 amount is correct for Res I residents. The listing of public safety tax amounts attached to this article shows $1,014 for the police/fire component and $57 for the paramedic component. Added together, that equals $1,071.

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