Ladies and Gentlemen, the story you’re about to read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
With that opening borrowed from the TV series Dragnet, let’s begin.
A local property owner called Mono County on Monday to pay her property taxes.
According to the information printed on the back of her tax bill, “Taxes … are delinquent if not postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service by 5 p.m. on December 10th. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, the hour of delinquency is 5 p.m. on the next business day.”
So she was on time.
The County lists four ways a person can pay their taxes: By check, cashier’s check, money order, or by credit card. It does not list restrictions as to when these methods of payment can and cannot be used.
When our dutiful property owner went online to pay by credit card on Monday, the system was down.
She was told by an employee in the Tax Collector’s office that the system would be functional in two days time. At that time, however, the payment would be late and penalties would be assessed.
The clerk suggested that the property owner pay by check and get her payment postmarked by 5 p.m.
“Would I be paying by credit card if I had any money in my checking account?” asked the property owner in exasperation.
As of press time, we had not heard back from Mono County Tax Collector Rose Glazier or Finance Director Brian Muir as to whether the 10% late penalty would be rescinded.
On a side note, the property owner points out that the County charges a special $40 fee to pay online. “It does not state on the tax bill that a ‘convenience fee’ will be added to pay online. You do not find that out until you go on the site.”
This reminds me of my own spat with the dreaded Tax Collector’s office some three years ago. I bought a house in December 2008 and then sometime around May I got a notice that I’m delinquent on my 2nd half taxes.
Me: I didn’t know I owed these taxes. Why didn’t you send me a bill?
Tax Collector: Well, you should have known that you owed these taxes and read through the mountain of mortgage documents to understand that.
The appeal failed. I paid the penalty because I am not Nostradamus.
Guide v. Planner
Some local business owners were miffed this week by what they perceived as preferential treatment granted to Mammoth Mountain, Snowcreek Resort and 101 Great Escapes by Mammoth Lakes Tourism.
Mammoth Lakes Tourism publishes the Mammoth Visitors Guide as well as the Mammoth Vacation Planner.
MLT Executive Director John Urdi said MLT published 155,000 Visitors’ Guides this year. This piece is distributed along the 395 corridor and in town.
Urdi said 115,000 Vacation Planners were printed. These pieces are distributed throughout California and Nevada, at official State Welcome Centers and in sport shops.
The Visitors’ Guide is a 5” x 7” piece. The Vacation Planner is 8.5” x 11.”
Traditionally (at least for the past five years anyway), the Vacation Planner has been advertisement-free. The idea being that the Planner should sell the community as a whole and should do so without advertising “clutter.”
This year, at the last minute, Mammoth Lakes Tourism decided to sell three full page advertisements in the Vacation Planner at $6,000 apiece.
It appears that these ads were offered first to the three largest advertisers in the Visitors Guide. All quickly accepted.
This didn’t sit well with at least one business owner who spent $1,400 for a 1/2 page in the Visitors Guide.
“The larger format is distributed outside of our market which is exactly where the potential customer is that I want to reach! Isn’t that what we are trying to do, influence the customer before they’ve made a purchase decision? You’re spending our T.O.T. marketing dollars and only representing three players without even an offering to the hundreds of others.”
Urdi said the Vacation Planner ads were sold without prejudice. “I don’t want to bastardize it, clutter it. But I wanted to offset some of the [production] cost and expand the reach.
“I understand the concern … we’ll talk about it in-house and with our Board. Maybe next year, we don’t do it.”
Urdi added that in these difficult economic times, his concern is to not only be fair, but to reach as far and wide as he possibly can.