Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan calls it a big mistake.
More than 183,000 property tax bills his office mailed Friday are missing the return address on payment stubs.
The address was supposed to be printed so that it shows through the window on return envelopes.
The Seattle-based vendor that produced the tax statements left off the return address as a result of converting to a new computer system, Lonergan said.
It was obviously a mistake on their part, he said.
A half-dozen or more people in the Assessor-Treasurers Office, including Lonergan himself, failed to catch the error.
We just simply missed it, said Lonergan, in his first year in office.
A spokesman for the vendor, Automatic Funds Transfer Services, said the initial goof was caused by the company, then the county didnt catch it in the proofreading stage.
We made a mistake, and we provided proofs to the county, said Rick Soth, AFTS vice president of marketing.
Ultimately, we work for the county, he added. We own the mistake.
The Assessor-Treasurers Office has worked with AFTS for 20 years with no problems like this, Lonergan said.
He now recommends that taxpayers write the return address on the payment envelope above the blank window.
But even if someone mails their payment in the provided envelope without the return address, the county still should receive it, Lonergan said. Thats because a bar code containing the address is printed on the envelopes below the return address window.
The Budget and Finance Department received several payments by mail Tuesday morning without the address, Lonergan said.
The office mailed 183,638 statements Friday. The remaining 145,704 taxed properties in Pierce County, not including a handful that already paid, are processed electronically through mortgage companies.
The first-half payment for 2013 is due April 30; the second half is due Oct. 31.
Lonergan said his office may send mailers with return address sheets to insert in the envelopes, but there wont be a second round of tax statements with new envelopes.
The Assessor-Treasurers Office received about 50 calls Tuesday morning about the mistake.
Kathy Casey, who contacted The News Tribune, found humor in it. She said her husband showed her the envelope, which says to make sure the address shows through the window before sealing it.
We thought it was hilarious, especially when my husband showed me the stub and envelope and said, I may not be the smartest person in Pierce County, but look at this, she said.
Lonergan campaigned for the office with the slogan Lets fix this. The phrase alluded to years of internal investigations and workplace strife under Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam, who lost his bid for re-election in the August primary.
Lonergan said Tuesday that his office did make technical corrections to tax information on the statements.
The most obvious thing we didnt check, he said. We should check everything.
I apologize for any confusion this may have caused, Lonergan said. We are checking our processes to make sure this doesnt happen again.
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647
WHERE TO SEND YOUR PAYMENT
Heres the address to write above the blank window on your property tax payment envelope:
P.O. Box 11621,
Tacoma, WA 98411-6621
The address is for the countys Budget and Finance Department, and is also printed on the back of the property tax payment stub.