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Treasurer finds funds overdue to districts

Several junior taxing districts will receive checks totalling $1.2 million from the Island County Treasurer's office to rectify a years-old oversight made under the former treasurer.

Late last week, recently elected treasurer Linda Riffe announced that her office found the money in a forgotten fund that was supposed to go to fire, parks, cemetery, school, port, library and water districts, as well as Langley and Coupeville

"I'm glad it didn't happen on my watch," Riffe said.

Riffe made the announcement Friday, explaining that the $1.2 million built up between 1999 and 2002 in something called the Property Tax Suspense Account. Funds in that account are supposed to "flow through" to junior taxing districts. But in recent years, the money stopped flowing.

The funds had been dispersed through 1998. What changed? For one thing, Riffe said, a computer program problem occurred in 1999.

"The tax program logic was not working properly," she said.

That error would have been noticed, Riffe said, "if the books had been reconciled with the bank statements in this office." That wasn't being done by the previous treasurer, Maxine Sauter. It won't happen again.

"It's being done now, I can guarantee you that."

Riffe said she was alerted to the problem upon taking office, but it took time working with the chief deputy auditor and affected taxing districts to finalize the numbers.

The largest check, for $497,814.92, will go to the state schools account. Another state district, for fire patrol, will receive $6,783.65.

Riffe said the dispersal includes principal plus interest to each district. She blamed the problem on a previous "lack of internal controls," but said those days are over.

Riffe said she expects to find more old money problems in the coming month.

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