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Council wants neighbor to pay for $1,445 mistake



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September 01, 2010 - It appears an Oxford Village homeowner who was paying property taxes on land she no longer owned for a number of years is going to be reimbursed.

However, the money's not going to come from the village government's coffers. It's going to come from the folks who now own the land that was split off her Dennison St. property in 2001.

Last week, the village council voted to give a $1,444.89 tax adjustment to Barbara Fox subject to a bill being issued and paid by the neighbor who purchased a small portion of her land nine years ago.

Fox called the decision "equitable."

The land's owner is being offered the option to work out a payment plan with the village. Council will revisit the issue for final approval at its next regular meeting 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14.

The amount owed to Fox includes $363.96 in village taxes, $890.72 in summer and winter tax bills from the township and $190.21 in interest for all three sets of bills. The tax period is from 2002-09.

Nine years ago, Fox and her now late husband Randy split off a 2,063-square-foot (or 0.047-acre) piece of their backyard and sold it to a neighbor on Pontiac St.

The split was approved by the village council in July 2001. A quit claim deed was signed that same month and filed with Oakland County in November 2001.

However, it wasn't discovered until this year that the village never forwarded the split information to the township, so a record of it could be filed with the county.

As a result, the split land was still considered part of the Dennison St. property and Fox had been paying property taxes all these years on land she no longer owned.

During the council meeting, former village Clerk Rose Bejma challenged the notion that it was the village's error.

"Who said there was an omission on the village's part? Who said it wasn't forwarded on to the township?" she asked.

Manager Joe Young indicated it was township Treasurer Joe Ferrari who said it.

"So, the village is taking the blame for something that might have happened or might have not happened," Bejma said.

"It appears that the village made an error," said Councilman Tony Albensi. "The township doesn't have any record of it. The county doesn't have any record of it."

"The records stop here," noted village President Teri Stiles.

"The village didn't follow through," said Councilman Tom Benner.

Albensi made it clear he wasn't interested in assigning blame for the mistake.

"It sounds like there was an error that had happened. Whether somebody's taking blame or not, I don't think it matters at this point," he said. "I think what we need to do is correct the issue."

The village did check to see if this mistake was covered by its insurance carrier.

It was not.

"I submitted a claim under our 'errors and omissions' coverage, and I got a response back that it's not a liability claim covered by our plan. It's a tax error, so they denied the claim," Young told this reporter.

Stiles indicated she wants council to readdress the issue of the $190.21 in interest.

Rather than just having the split property owner pay it, she wishes to explore other options including either waiving the interest or having the village pay it.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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