Glacier County taxpayers should be watching for a revised property tax bill later this month. According to Glacier County Treasurer Don Wilson, the original tax bills omitted the taxes for the Cut Bank International Airport and Glacier County Transit Authority and had the incorrect tax amount for the City of Cut Bank. The bill also incorrectly levied taxes for the Glacier County EMS. Wilson blamed the county’s Black Mountain software program and Glacier County Clerk and Recorder Mandi Kennerly for the errors, stating, “That’s what happened so then I get stuck fixing this.”
While Wilson did not specifically name Kennerly during the meeting, in his proposed explanation to taxpayers, which he presented to the Commissioners at their Dec. 24 meeting, Wilson states, “The Clerk and Recorder entered the mils into the computer system. She made a number of errors.”
After hearing Wilson’s explanation at their Dec. 24 meeting, the Glacier County Commissioners gave Wilson the go ahead to re-issue the corrected tax statements. The mailing will include the revised tax bill, the original tax bill and a statement explaining the need for the new tax bills. Taxpayers will be given 30 days from the time the new bills are issued to pay the additional taxes, said Wilson. He estimated the additional tax payments would be due Feb. 20.
Wilson further requested the cost of reprinting the tax bills not come out of the Treasurer’s budget since it wasn’t his mistake. Wilson said he was “on death’s door with COVID” and was not involved in the budgeting or entering of the mill levies in the tax bill preparation process.
Commission Chairman Michael DesRosier replied, “I don’t think there needs to be any fingerpointing,” but agreed the added cost should not come out of Wilson’s budget.
As to the financial impact, Wilson stated, “I don’t have any idea, dollarwise, what it’s going to mean.”
Rick Geiger and Jim Newman of the Cut Bank Airport Authority attended the meeting to hear an update on the status of the county funding of the airport. Chief Financial Officer Chancy Kittson and the Commissioners assured them the funds to continue the operation of the airport would be provided the first week in January with a second installment of funding coming in February.
Wilson stated none of the November tax disbursements had been made to any of the taxing agencies, including the four school districts in Glacier County, due to the errors on the tax bills. There were no errors, however, on any of the schools’ portion of the tax bills.
Cut Bank Schools Superintendent Wade Johnson said School District No. 15 has yet to receive the monthly reports from Wilson dating back to October. Since the Cut Bank Schools did not receive their November tax payment, Johnson stated, “We cashed in some investments to cover our December payroll. We won’t be able to do that in January,” he added.
Due to the lack of reports and payments from the County Treasurer, Johnson said Cut Bank Schools officials have requested to be on the Commissioners’ meeting agenda for Thursday, Jan. 7.
During the Dec. 24 meeting, Wilson continued the discussion he started at the Dec. 22 meeting in Browning about his desire to switch from Black Mountain software to Tyler Technologies. “I could write a book about all the issues with Black Mountain,” stated Wilson.
Commissioner-Elect Mary Jo Bremner questioned how many hours of training Wilson and his present staff have had on Black Mountain. Wilson said despite having “zero training hours” on Black Mountain he was a “very sophisticated user” of the software program. “They don’t have training,” he continued, adding CFO Kittson and WIPFLI, the county’s auditing firm, “can attest to that.”
Commissioner John Overcast questioned what the cost would be to make the transition. Wilson said Tyler Technologies has a “finance program,” adding the cost is $300,000. Wilson claimed when Glacier County made the initial investment in Black Mountain years ago the cost was $500,000.
Overcast said he had emailed other county officials about their experience with Black Mountain. According to Overcast 32 counties utilize Black Mountain “and not one sent back negative” comments. He received responses from 13 counties. Overcast pointed out those he heard from had “good reviews” about Black Mountain’s customer service.
“Everyone keeps saying, ‘operator error,’ on the (Glacier) county level,” continued Overcast. He said he also talked to officials from Black Mountain and they “presented a different story than you are.”
Outgoing Commissioner Tom McKay stated, “We’re not competent enough to decide these issues.” McKay said the decision should be up to the county department heads and employees who utilize the software. He made a motion to allow Wilson to proceed on finding an alternative to Black Mountain “pending the availability of funds.” The Commissioners approved the motion.
Local taxpayer Elaine Mitchell said she wasn’t opposed to the County changing software, but suggested such a move should be done at the beginning of a fiscal year, and not at mid-year.
“It still won’t change the problem,” said Mitchell of changing from Black Mountain to another software. She suggested the Commissioners form an independent committee to determine “why we can’t get a reconciled bank statement.”
Overcast requested the status of the county’s November cash report, which was due on Dec. 20.
“I can’t do a cash report until I distribute the money,” responded Wilson.
The Commissioners held a discussion on using the unspent portion of the CTCL Election Grant funds to purchase property in Browning for a county-owned satellite office. The discussion was continued at a special meeting on Dec. 29. The Commissioners voted to pursue the purchase of property for the office, if allowable under terms of the grant. More information on their decision will appear in next week’s issue.