YERMO • A computer error may have resulted in the Yermo Community Services District receiving more in property tax disbursements than it should have this year, and now the county wants the money back.

According to the county Auditor/Controller-Recorder, the Yermo CSD owes San Bernardino County about $37,500.

The county sent a letter to the Yermo CSD board notifying it of the error and requesting it return the overbudgeted amount, said Yermo CSD President Bob Smith. According to Smith, who said the county doesn't give special districts an explanation of how much to expect in property taxes each year, returning that amount of money could seriously impact the community.

"We had set aside $40,000 in our reserves anticipating that the next couple of years are going to be trying times, especially with the upcoming cuts that are projected from the state," he said. "So this is really going to put us in a critical financial bind."

According to Larry Walker, county auditor/controller-recorder, special districts receive notice in January of what to expect in property taxes that year. The county should have allocated the Yermo CSD about $12,500 in property taxes this year, he said. Instead, the CSD board received a check for $50,000, Walker said.

The letter contained no clear qualification of where the $50,000 had come from, Smith said. According to him, the letter the county sent just notified the CSD the money was inappropriately sent and requested the board return it. Before sending back the overbudgeted amount, Smith said the CSD board submitted a letter to First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt's office in order to clarify that there was an error.

When asked if the board had noticed it received more in property taxes than it should have, Yermo CSD Vice President Geoff Berner, who handles the board's finances, said property taxes come into the CSD in bits and pieces throughout the year, making it difficult to tell.

Smith brought up the county's letter and request  at the CSD board meeting Aug. 18. At that meeting, Director Scott Walker brought up two land options for the purchase of a skate park. Smith said the CSD was going to take money out of its general fund to purchase a piece of property for the park, but because of the county's request that won't be able to happen. He also said this could cause the CSD to cut back on its general manager's hours.
Walker said the Yermo CSD wasn't the only agency affected by this computer error. According to an e-mail sent by Walker's chief deputy, Kris Letterman, who handles the payroll and property tax division, other agencies that were overpaid include Barstow Heights, which was requested to return $12,918.43 to the county.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com