Twin Bridges School Board, county officials look to correct tax mistake

VIRGINA CITY – At a special meeting Monday representatives from the Twin Bridges School Board met with the Madison County Commissioners, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer to discuss how to best to resolve a tax billing error from 2010 that gave Ruby Valley school districts an incorrect amount of tax revenue.

The county treasurer’s office was notified in December 2011 of an “incorrect taxable value” on two tax bills for Barrett Minerals, a mining company with projects underway in the Stone Creek area, said Madison County Treasurer Shelly Burke. The error was reported to the Department of Revenue in Helena, which then directed Burke to recreate the two tax bills for Barrett Minerals. And although the recreated tax bills were issued, finding a remedy for the error is easier said than done.

Revenues from Barrett go to both Sheridan and Twin Bridges school districts. But Twin Bridges ended up receiving less money than they should have because of the error on the original tax bills.

“What it did was lower the taxable value from $897, 892 to $363,818, which is a big difference,” Burke explained. “So when that happened it decreased the revenues to the Twin Bridges School by approximately $149,000 and then increased Sheridan’s by $67,000 and Alder’s by approximately $28,000.”

It was not immediately clear whether the error was made by Barrett or the Montana Department of Revenue.

“They had the wrong information on the wrong forms,” Burke continued. “It couldn’t be corrected because it just wasn’t noticed at the time.”

Commissioner Dan Happel suggested that the Twin Bridges School Board write a letter to both Barrett Minerals and the Department of Revenue to explain the situation and try to find a remedy for it.

“Barrett is a solid, big company and I think they are socially responsible,” said Happel. “I think if we approach them I there is a decent chance that they’ll do the right thing and pay it.”

Burke added that whoever was responsible for the error doesn’t realize the impact it has on the local school districts.

“It’s a big error and they need to explain it,” she said.

The Twin Bridges School Board agreed to draft a letter to be approved by their attorney as well as appropriate county officials before sending it on to both Barrett Minerals and the Montana Department of Revenue in Helena.

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