A $399,878,100 Error

Budgeting at the local (municipal, county, and township) level usually begins with the treasurer/tax collector telling the board here’s how much money we’re going to receive this year in property taxes based on the property valuation. The board then comes up with a budget. (Yes, I’m simplifying the process; however, this is essentially what is done.)

In Porter County, Indiana, someone made a typographical error on the valuation of a house in Valparaiso. Instead of the $121,900 it’s really worth, that unknown individual typed in $400,000,000. Typos happen all the time; usually there’s a process in place to check for things like that. I would have expected if the assessed valuation increased by $400,000,000 that someone would have looked to see what triggered it. They would have noticed that a house’s value increased just a bit; someone would investigate and the typo would be corrected.

But that didn’t happen. And all the agencies–cities, counties, school districts, etc.–budgeted based on the erroneous figure. The owner of the house decided not to pay taxes based on the $400,000,000 assessed valuation.

Now many, if not all, of the government agencies impacted by this will have to have layoffs. All because of a typographical error that should have been caught if proper budgeting analysis were done, and all of the agencies involved notified of the error.

News Story: CNN

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