New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
The owner of a company hired to mail Lawrence County’s tax bills said the treasurer delayed the mailing date twice.
That happened before the machines at D&H Marketing Concepts Inc. broke down last week, owner Joe DeGruttola explained Wednesday.
DeGruttola rebutted Treasurer Richard Rapone’s comments that he was “disappointed,” and alluded that DeGruttola acted unprofessionally about his company not yet sending out some of the 2013 county property tax statements.
The county has contracted for two years with D&H to print and mail more than 54,000 tax statements to property owners. Last year’s bills were mailed on time.
This year, some taxpayers are asking why they don’t have their bills yet, which cuts into their discount period, and owners of multiple properties are asking why they’ve gotten some bills but not all.
Last year, D&H had 12 to 15 working days scheduled for getting the bills ready to mail, DeGruttola explained. The process was to be the same this year, but one obstacle was that the county is using new software to generate billing data and the new data company was installing it and training the county staff.
Around Feb. 12, the treasurer’s office sent DeGruttola an email requesting to push the mailing date back to Feb. 25.
“That consequently pushes me back on all of my other jobs,” he said. “I have other vendors doing quite a bit of mailing.”
DeGruttola said he was using the same machines to process 200,000 pieces of mail for two other customers. Those clients’ work arrived on time, while the county’s got pushed back at its request, he said.
Then, the treasurer’s office delayed the mailing again to Feb. 26, he said.
“We were taxing our machines and we went into overtime on Saturday and Sunday,” he said.
He claims he had only seven working days to complete the county’s job instead of 15.
“We got 80 percent of the mailings out,” he said. “Then the machine broke and the rest are being hand-stuffed.” He estimated that is 3,000 to 4,000 tax statements.
When the mailing dates were pushed back, “that put a problem in my pipeline and that throws a wrench into every part of it,” DeGruttola said, adding, “I don’t want it to seem like D&H Marketing didn’t go out of our way, because we sure as heck did.”
He admitted he didn’t inform the county of the breakdown, but he had expected Rapone to call him for an update.
The county hired Evaluator Services and Technology Inc. of Greensburg last year to install new software in the treasurer’s, assessor’s and tax claim offices.
The new tax bills include a notice that a third-party convenience fee is being charged to those who pay by credit card. Rapone said one reason the date was pushed back was because Commissioner Bob Del Signore didn’t understand the concept of charging the convenience fee.
Del Signore had become angry at a commissioners meeting two weeks ago and said he wouldn’t rest until Gene Porterfield, EST’s president, met with him to explain it. They met Feb. 20 and resolved the matter and the commissioners approved the fee Feb. 26.
The printing of the bills could not begin until after the Feb. 20 meeting, because the fee disclosure has to be on them, Rapone said.
Rapone is upset because DeGruttola never told him he could not accommodate the new dates, nor did he tell him about the machinery breakdown, he said.
“Not once did he tell me, ‘You know Richard, these snags are pushing us up against a wall and we’re not going to be able to produce your tax bills when you need them to be produced.’”
Rapone had told DeGruttola the tax bills could not go out as long as his employees weren’t properly trained by EST, but “we told them last Tuesday, Feb. 26, that it was OK to mail them,” he said.
“My issue also is that he circumvented informing me of the (machinery) breakdown,” Rapone said, adding that a D&H employee had told his deputy all the bills were being mailed out.
“You don’t omit that 3,000 or 4,000 are still sitting in your office,” he said. “There was no sidebar they were having problems with the machine. I had a right to know that.”
Although DeGruttola told the New Castle News about 3,000 to 4,000 had not been sent, Rapone said that as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, he still did not know exactly how many tax bills had not been mailed.