Charleston County Council tax bill meeting heats up

Auditor Peggy Moseley appeared before Charleston County Council, including members Elliott Summey (left) and Vic Rawl, to explain the delay in getting the county’s property tax bills sent out.

Charleston County Auditor Peggy Moseley gave no guarantee when tax bills would be ready for mailing during a sometimes testy appearance Thursday in front of County Council.

"We're praying," Moseley told the body, saying computer tests would be run today and that the auditor's office would work through the weekend if necessary.

Council called Moseley to appear to explain why implementation of a new computer system has delayed getting out property bills this year. Under normal situations, they would have gone out weeks ago.

She responded by saying criticism of her office is misdirected, and that the issue is a systems problem.

"I would like you to apologize to the office because they have worked very, very hard," she told Councilman Elliott Summey, who last week challenged her work ethic.

The two were sometimes combative.

Summey, at one point, questioned Moseley's tone as she defended her office, wondering why she was talking down to him like he was "a 5-year-old."

He said that his earlier comments about Moseley and her commitment to the elected job of auditor were aimed at the business side of what she did.

"It's nothing personal," he said.

Moseley, who has been auditor since 1992, fired back: "Mr. Summey, if you think you are more interested in the taxpayers than I am, you are incorrect."

She also accused Summey of having an agenda against her, "and everybody knows it."

The square-off came as Summey contends there is an urgency to getting the tax bills out this month to make sure mortgage companies, accountants and government officials can get homeowner deductions ready and calculated in time for next year's taxes.

The county has received two 30-day extensions from the state, allowing the bills to be mailed as late as Nov. 30.

By Summey's estimate, the bills have to be out by the end of next week, Nov. 18 at the latest, for the process to get finished in time. Moseley said the blame is not hers and faults the county's new Manatron computer system.

The fight over the bills heated up last week when Summey questioned Moseley's work hours, saying county records indicated her car has been parked in the county garage only 136 days this calendar year, even though her time cards show her having worked eight hours a day, five days a week. Moseley defended herself by saying the records don't mean a thing. None of that part of their squabble materialized Thursday.

County officials said they hoped the bills would be ready as soon as Monday. Summey agreed. "If she's praying, I'm going to go light a candle for her," he said.