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In a pricey box nestles one 'no'
The county has spent $6, 532 this year for postage on homestead rejection letters.
By CAMILLE C. SPENCER
Published June 27, 2007
John Heagney got the box in the mail last Friday.
It was white, letter-sized, about three-quarters of an inch thick, sent from the Pasco County Property Appraiser's Office to Heagney's Tarpon Springs home. The postmark read June 20.
Postage paid was $3.39.
Heagney wasn't expecting the box, or what he found inside: a single sheet of paper denying homestead exemption to Heagney and his wife, who inherited a New Port Richey house after her father died in September.
He had no problem with the letter: He and his wife don't live in that house, and therefore wouldn't qualify for homestead exemption there.
"My question is, $3.39 in postage?" Heagney said. "How much did the property appraiser's office spend letting people know they were no longer eligible?"
According to county records, the appraiser's office sent out 1, 471 homestead exemption denials during 2006. So far this year, 1, 927 denials have been sent out. At $3.39 apiece, that comes out to $6, 532.
So a Times reporter called Property Appraiser Mike Wells to ask why the county's tax dollars were being spent on the boxes, as opposed to the cheaper, more practical method of using envelopes and 41-cent, first-class stamps.
Wells said the key is tracking. He needs to make sure each recipient received the letter. So he uses UPS, which has a tracking system, to send the one-page notices.
"What am I supposed to do? Send them all out for 41 cents, and everybody denies getting them?" Wells said. "This is the cheapest way I know."
Wells said he would use a less pricey method if he knew of one.
"We paid $3.39 for the box, and certified mail is $5.21, " Wells said. "I would love to hear how the post office could ship that damned box for less money than an envelope."