Post #221: I owe Town Finance Department staff an apology

Posted on April 1, 2019

Last night, in exchange for her promise not to firebomb my house, I apologized to Town Finance Director Marion Serfass, CPA.  And have taken down my post #218. 

OK, I made up the part about firebombing.  As April 15 draws near, I have accounting-and-tax nightmares.  So the first thing that came to mind was a SWAT team consisting entirely of CPAs: Imagine Schwarzenegger in camo and a green eyeshade, one hand clutching a bunch of file folders, the other holding the Ithaca 37 shotgun from Terminator.  “You chose sum-of-ta-digits MACRS?  Big mistake.  You should have expensed under section 179.  (Gunshot).  Consider dat an amended 1040.”

Back on point.

My post #218 was about the Town’s legally-required tax notice.  When real estate assessments go up by more than one percent, the Commonwealth requires that each local government issue a notice.  The point of the notice is to let the people know how much real estate taxes will rise, on average.

But, as is often the case when simple arithmetic collides with the law, logic is a casualty of the collision.  The actual language of the statute is convoluted and obtuse.

This lack of clarity of the law is not helped by the fact that the legally-required language omits any mention of the current tax rate.  Which, when the point of the document is to talk about the year-to-year change in taxes, is kind of a critical omission.  You can’t check the arithmetic without going somewhere else to look up the current tax rate.

Anyway, the Town got the arithmetic of the legally-required calculation wrong.  They have now straightened that out and fixed that legal notice.  Town Manager Payton and Finance Director Serfass stopped by at last night’s meeting to let me know that.  Which was nice of them.

And, on my part, totally unexpected.

What I need to take back, from my prior post, is not the algebra.  Math is math.  It’s my assumption that the Town would just ignore me.  Which they did not.

So I learned a lesson.  If I ever come across what I believe to be a technical error by the Town, anywhere outside of this discussion about MAC, I’ll just bring it to their attention.  In hindsight, there was no need to have posted that here.