THE PROBLEM : Baltimore property owners paid their tax bills, but the payments weren't properly processed.
THE BACKSTORY : Carol Foster of Phoenix couldn't understand it. She paid the property tax on her husband's dental office on Harford Road in July when the bill was due. But, in December, the couple received another letter.
Foster thought it was another invoice. "I said, 'What, I've got to pay this twice a year now?' " she said. It was actually a notice to pay the taxes owed or the property would be sold at tax sale.
She called to find out what happened and was told to send in proof of payment. So Foster did. It didn't get processed, so she sent it again, and again - three times in all.
"If you faxed it once and it got taken care of, that would be fine," she said. "To have to keep doing it over and over again is tiring."
Foster talked to an employee who said that the payments of 1,000 property owners were not properly entered. "It's in limbo or gosh knows where it is," Foster said.
Henry Raymond, chief of the city's Bureau of Revenue Collections, said the department was aware of a problem, but it was affecting at most 250 properties out of about 61,000 citywide.
Because of a computer programming issue, the payments were not posted to the correct account, he said.
"When we sent out our final bill and legal notice, some of the individuals whose accounts had not been corrected, they noticed it and brought it to our attention," he said.
The department has taken steps to correct the affected bills, he said, including the Fosters' property. The 2009 tax sale is in May. "We have between now and May to resolve this on behalf of all constituents," Raymond said.
"We would like to assure the public that we're doing everything we can to clear the errors up," he said.
If property owners believe they should not have a delinquent bill, "they should contact us, and we will do the necessary research," Raymond said. Sending proof of payment, such as a copy of the canceled check or money order, would help with the research.
Documents can be faxed to the tax sale office at 410-783-0407, with the property address and a phone number, or mailed to Bureau of Revenue Collections, Finance Department, 200 Holliday St., Baltimore 21202.
WHO CAN FIX THIS : Henry Raymond, chief, Bureau of Revenue Collections. 410-396-3961. The tax sale office call center is 410-396-3987.
Shirley Clinton of the Reisterstown Square Tenants Association said that the lights illuminating the walk to the Home Depot at the Reisterstown Plaza have been replaced and are working fine. "We are positive that without your help we may have still been in darkness!" she wrote in a note.
Is there something in your neighborhood that's not getting fixed? Tell us where the problem is and how long it's been there by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 410-332-6735.