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Chattahoochee Chatter: 'A punch list'

During the public forum last week at Dorothy Height Elementary School, where Muscogee County School District superintendent David Lewis explained his administration's proposal to renew the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that expired Dec. 31, the wind periodically whistled around the building and interrupted his presentation. That prompted this anonymous question, which assistant superintendent Rebecca Braaten read aloud and cracked up the crowd:

"Will the construction company that installed the windows in this cafeteria "

The crowd's laughter drowned out the rest of the question, but it was something like " be held responsible for the whistling sound?"

The SPLOST voters approved in 2009 funded the construction of the school, which opened in August.

"Just like you have at your house," Lewis deadpanned, "we have a punch list."

And thinking about the SPLOST, if you haven't already cast your ballot during the early voting period, we here at Chatterland urge you to vote on the referendum by Tuesday, the special election day -- because if you don't vote, then your opinion amounts to just a bunch of Chatter whistling in the wind.

If you live in Phenix City Council District 3 on the southside, here's your chance to talk to your councilmember, Arthur Day.

Every third Saturday through September, Day plans to set up shop at the Fifth Street South complex to hear from his constituents. The first one will be March 21 from 9 a.m. to noon. He will meet in the police precinct inside the complex.

"I have always tried to listen to people, and I just wanted to do something a little different," Day said.

If you live in District 3, don't say you didn't get a chance to be heard.

How does an extra $628 in the pocket sound to you? Not too shabby, huh?

That's the median unclaimed refund for those who were supposed to file an income tax return for the year 2011, but did not, and there are 36,200 of you out there, Internal Revenue Service spokesman Mark Green said Wednesday.

But there is a catch, he said, or in this case, a looming deadline.

Those who have not filed those 2011 returns must do it by April 15, which is when the three-year window for doing so expires. After that, the money goes straight to the U.S. Treasury.

"Time is running out if you want to get your refund," Green said. "Taxpayers should review their 2011 statements for refundable credits and withholdings. We want all taxpayers to get the refund they're due."

And just why might someone have not submitted a return? They may have had too little income that year to require filing a tax return even though they had taxes withheld from their wages or made quarterly estimated payments, he said.

Green stressed there is no penalty for filing a late return qualifying for a refund. But the IRS said those seeking a 2011 refund could have their checks held if they also have not filed tax returns for 2012 and 2013.

The refund also will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS or a state tax agency, and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans.

In all, the IRS said Georgians are collectively owed more than $31 million in cash from unclaimed refunds for 2011.

For the nation as a whole, the number is a cool $1 billion owed to a combined 1 million taxpayers. So get hopping out there in Chatterland and claim what's rightfully yours. Contact the IRS or a qualified tax preparation service or accountant.