For the last couple of years, every time auditor-controller Joe Mellett told Humboldt County supes he really needed some more accountants, it was "basically just me whining to the board," Mellett recalled over the phone on Thursday afternoon.
So Mellett sucked it up like lots of people on understaffed job sites. Sometimes work went unchecked. Including his work. Including the calculations that went into creating every single property tax bill in Humboldt County.
The bills that went out recently aren't very wrong, Mellett said, but plenty of them are off by a few dollars.
"It's human error on my part," he said, and "the most significantly embarrassing one" since he took office.
If it's any consolation, Mellett also caught the blooper himself, when his own tax bill showed up in the mail. He looked, looked again, and then realized the school bond rates imposed on his lot were about $5 higher than the rates he'd remembered running for that bond.
"With growing horror I go back and research it and realize the wrong bond rates were applied" -- not just for one but for 25 different school bonds, which can wobble up or down by a few dollars each year. The slip-up happened when he failed to properly enter the updated rates into another, computerized step of creating a tax bill.
So, um, if you haven't paid yet, Humboldt County would like you to kindly disregard your property tax bills -- the original ones are teal -- and wait for the corrected ones, which it plans to send out soon on yellow paper.
And next year, Mellett said, he'll use one of his thin-stretched junior staffers to generate some of the basic work, and he'll review it, so at least there are two pairs of eyes on the numbers instead of just one.
"Most accountants will tell you, you really can't review your own work. Once you've spent 40 hours with your own work, you're pretty much blind to it," he said.
Until it shows up in the mail.