Town of Fredonia officials were stunned when they received a $230 charge last month from the county for late payment of the county’s share of town property taxes.
According to the county, the charge covered the lost interest earnings on the town’s $233,640 tax payment after the check failed to arrive at the county treasurer’s office by the Thursday, Jan. 15, due date.
Rather than simply pay the penalty, town officials forwarded a check to the county for a much lower amount — $11.31 — and a letter from Town Chairman Rich Mueller detailing the rationale for the reduction.
“This should settle your claim of interest owed against the Town of Fredonia,” Mueller wrote.
The Town Board approved payment of the $233,640 payment to the county from collected property taxes at its Jan. 14 meeting, and mailed the check from the Fredonia Post Office by 9:30 a.m. the following day.
Although the tax payment check failed to arrive at the Ozaukee County Administration Center the following day, other bills mailed out at the same time arrived at their destinations.
“If (the county) did not receive that check by the 16th, that has to be a problem on the county level in the distribution of the mail, not the Town of Fredonia’s problem,” Mueller wrote.
At the county’s request, the town issued a second check for the tax payments.
“It is strange that after the Town of Fredonia issued (at your request) a second check, the first check suddenly appeared and was returned to the town without the postmarked envelope,” Mueller wrote.
To settle up with the county, the town agreed it owed one day’s worth of lost interest on the $233,640 — which the town calculated at $76.81.
However, the town then deducted all costs associated with issuing that second check.
Those costs included a $32 stop payment charge for the first check, $15 to reissue a second check, $9.50 mileage charge to deliver the second check to the county offices in Port Washington, $6 mileage for the town chairman to drive to the Fredonia Government Center to sign the new check and $3 for the town treasurer to drive to the town offices to cosign the check.
When the payment penalty was discussed last month, supervisors said they were reluctant to pursue the matter in small claims court because it would certainly cost more than the penalty the county was seeking.
The board, however, unanimously approved sending the follow-up letter and the $11.31 check to the county last week.
“We’ll see what happens,” Mueller said after the board backed the approach.
County Treasurer Karen Makoutz said she received the town’s check and letter, and has referred the issue to the county’s corporation counsel.