A glitch in a new computer system means a few thousand Tarrant County residents don’t know how much to pay in property taxes even though the taxes are due now, officials said.
The Tarrant County Tax Appraisal District upgraded its 30-year-old computer system in October, but changes in ownership, valuation and exemptions have not been updated since then, said Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright.
"Everybody is going to like it once it's been completely installed and running and all the bugs are worked out,” Wright said. “It's going to be great."
But for now, the affected taxpayers aren't so sure.
“Why didn’t they have it figured out before they changed over to the new system?” asked Joyce Hill, of Mansfield.
Hill turned 65 in October so her taxes should be reduced, but county records don’t yet reflect her “over 65” exemption.
She said a worker at the county tax office suggested she pay her full tax and they would refund her overpayment later.
"It is very frustrating, especially when you are on a fixed income,” she said. “I guess my question to them is, ‘Why do I have to pay and pull money out of a savings account and pay my taxes and wait for them to refund me when they are the issue?"
Wright said residents are still responsible for paying their taxes if they own property.
"State law says that property owners owe taxes whether they receive a statement or not,” he said. “The onus is on the taxpayer."
He estimated the number of taxpayers affected is “a few thousand.”
Carl Braunreiter, of Benbrook, has not received a tax statement and doesn't know how much tax to pay on his house either.
He said the issue complicated his federal taxes because he wasn’t sure how much to deduct for property taxes.
"I called the appraisal office,” he said. “The appraisal office said that, 'We sent it over.' Well, the assessor's office says, 'No, we didn't get it because we can't open up their program.'"
Braunreiter said he paid the previous year’s amount and hopes he is not penalized.
“They implemented something before they were ready for it and you got the mess you got,” he said. "You would hope they would have had it working by the time the due date was there. And that obviously didn't happen because I still don't have it."
Wright said the county was working hard to fix the problems in the next week or two.
If a taxpayer is not billed by Jan. 10, he said they may receive extra time to pay. While taxes are due now, penalties don’t start until Jan. 31.
Wright urged any taxpayer with any questions to call his office.
“We're trying to do everything we can to alleviate the inconvenience to people,” he said.
Even though a few thousand taxpayers are affected, Wright noted Tarrant County’s population is about two million.
"It's affecting a small number of people but if you're one of those people, it doesn't matter that it's a small number,” he said. “When it's affecting you, it's a big deal."