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Archive for Tuesday, August 20, 2002

$200 million tax error sends Riley County reeling

August 20, 2002

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— A mistake that caused the property value of a home near Kansas State University to be inflated by $200 million has baffled even state experts and left local governments scrambling to refigure their budgets.

Riley County Appraiser Sam Schmidt's staff uncovered the error last week while preparing for next year's valuations. The staff found the valuation on a single $59,500 property east of the university inadvertently had been changed to $200,059,000.

The tax bill was never sent out, but Manhattan, Riley County and the local school district based their budget calculations on the erroneous valuation, which created a 6.5 percent overstatement of the value of property in the county.

Now, all three will probably have to figure out how to fix an overall shortfall that's likely to reach at least $2.3 million.

No one knows how the mistake occurred, though Schmidt speculated it may have been a keystroke error. Once the mistake was made, Schmidt said, it would have been easy to lose among roughly 40,000 entries for property values.

No one at the state headquarters for the League of Kansas Municipalities, the Kansas Association of Counties, or the Kansas Association of School Boards has heard of a similar incident.

"I'm sure there are keystroke mistakes that occur from time to time," said Randy Allen, executive director of the Kansas Association of Counties. "I've seen nothing exactly like this."

The city's shortfall is $968,000, while Riley County's is $781,814. The school district's loss has not been calculated, but it is expected to exceed $605,000.

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