City mix-up cashes post-dated cheques early

Several property owners were the victim of a mix-up at City Hall involving property tax cheques earlier this week

Several property owners were the victim of a mix-up at City Hall involving property tax cheques earlier this week.

Many residents who paid with post-dated cheques for July 4, had them cashed early after they were switched with a batch of current-day cheques, said Laura Ciarniello, the city’s general manager of corporate services.

“When people pay property taxes at City Hall, the current-date cheques and cash are sorted separately from those post-dated to July 4,” she told city council at Tuesday’s meeting. “Late last week, two batches of cheques were mixed up, and the post-dated batches were sent to the bank.”

Frank Jamieson is one of 200 people and businesses involved in the mix-up. He was notified of the switch by the city.

“I was called about two minutes after five last night by the city, saying that an error had occurred and that I should check my account,” said Jamieson. “At that point the money hadn’t been taken out but at 7 p.m., when I checked again, it had. I asked what the city would do and they said nothing.”

Jamieson, who dropped off his payment at City Hall in early June, said he was surprised to learn what happened and then became irritated.

“Once again, the citizen who did nothing wrong, did everything right, gets pigeon-holed,” said Jamieson who arranged with his bank’s manager to get the money put back into his account.

Ciarniello said as soon as staff realized its mistake, “we phoned the bank and asked them to stop processing those cheques” but it was too late.

“Those batches had already been sent to the clearing house in Victoria and could not be stopped,” said Ciarniello. “We cannot be certain that the banks will catch the date mix-up, so we want to let people know that, in some cases, unfortunately, the cheques might be cashed early.”

Ciarniello said the city is hoping that since “banks have a responsibility to review and verify the dates on cheques,” many will be returned to the city for processing after July 4.

“We also want to assure people, that, if the bank does catch the date mix-up and returns the cheque to us, there will be no penalty if the cheque arrives after the July 4 date as this was our mistake,” she said.

In cases where a cheque has been cancelled and sent back to City Hall, the city is asking payment be re-issued by July 20.

Anyone who incurs any bank charges related to the mix-up will be re-imbursed by the city said Ciarniello.

But some, like Jamieson, may lose out on a few extra dollars in interest at the end of the month.

“At the end of the month you collect interest on what’s left in your account,” he said. “If the bank is taking the money out before the end of the month, the interest isn’t there.”

People can call the City’s Finance Department at 250-286-5719.