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Village agrees to reimburse overtaxed property owner

September 22, 2010 - An Oxford Village taxpayer billed for property she no longer owned for the last eight years is finally going to get her money back.

The only question left is, will the village get its money back from the neighbor who bought the property in question, but hasn't paid any taxes on it.

Council last week voted 5-0 to reimburse Barbara Fox $1,444.89 for all the property taxes she paid between 2002 and 2009 on a piece of land she sold in 2001.

"This is our fault," said Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth. "We overcharged her and I don't think we should hold her responsible."

The amount Fox is being paid includes $363.96 in village taxes, $890.72 in summer and winter township tax bills and $190.21 in interest for all three sets of bills over the eight-year period.

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

Council approved the lot split in July 2001 and a quit claim deed was signed that same month, then filed with Oakland County in November of that year.

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

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

The village believes the property's actual owner should now repay the municipality the money it's agreed to pay Fox.

"I think we should come to an agreement with the correct property owner and have them reimburse us for all or for a portion, whatever we decide," Helmuth said.

Village Clerk Dan Luick told council he previously spoke with the current property owner and this individual was not willing to pay.

"He feels that it's an error on the village's part," he said. "That everything was done properly (on his end) and he should not be held responsible."

But council didn't find that reasoning acceptable.

"I'm really disappointed that the current property owner didn't realize that all of a sudden his taxes didn't increase when he purchased more property," said village President Teri Stiles. "To me, that indicates a little culpability as well."

Although he agreed the village should reimburse Fox, Councilman Tony Albensi wasn't pleased with the idea of everyone else footing the bill if the current property owner is unwilling to pay the municipality.

"We don't get that back, then the rest of the taxpayers in this village, including all of us up here and all those people out there, are paying taxes for that property. And I don't think that's fair," he said.

In its motion, council directed village Manager Joe Young to consult with the village attorney as to what type of legal recourse the municipality has if the current property owner continues his refusal to pay.

Township Supervisor Bill Dunn, who attended the council meeting as a village resident, suggested the municipality and property owner split the cost 50/50.

"You should pay a little because you did err," he told council members.

But that doesn't mean the current property owner should get a free ride in Dunn's opinion. "I don't think that person should get away for (eight) years for nothing. I don't believe that's proper," he said.

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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