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November 15, 2013

 

County tax installments flawed

Legislators seek fix for payment program estimated to have $600K shortfall

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

County Administrator Martin Murphy has been tasked with seeking proposals from accountants to help the county sort out problems with its tax installment payment program, although he suggested the Pittsford-based Bonadio Group do the work.
Murphy proposed the Bonadio Group explore the problems with the county’s tax installment program at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting Thursday. The Bonadio Group estimated the faulty tax installment program has cost the county about $600,000 worth of property taxes, due to deficient or delinquent installment payments.
The Bonadio Group proposed addressing the problem for about $18,000, a price finance officials Thursday decided they want to beat.
Murphy expressed frustration with the committee’s failure to take his recommendation and use the Bonadio Group, saying after the meeting he does not have time to prepare a Request for Proposals amidst budget season.
The Bonadio Group was going to review all aspects of the county’s tax installment program, which has been faulted by auditors over the years as lacking proper oversight.
“They were going to review all files and identify which ones are delinquent or past due or disqualify for the tax installment,” Murphy said.
In September the Bonadio Group reported that there is about an 80 percent failure rate with the tax installment program, saying “clearly something needs to be addressed.”
The installment plan has been in effect since 1997.
Murphy said much is at stake in rectifying the problem.
“Potentially $600,000 could be in the county coffers from any number of tax delinquent properties that should have gone to foreclosure,” Murphy said.
But Legislator Susan Briggs (R-Cortlandville) who was one of the legislators pushing for other bids to be sought, said the county just needs to ensure it is getting the best price.
“It seems pretty simple to me to do an RFP and make sure we are getting the best price for our work,” Briggs said.
County Treasurer Cindy Monroe said that given the time-frame of tax installment payments, nothing could be acted on the recommendations of an audit until next October since that is when the foreclosure process begins.
“The foreclosure process is the only way we can take care of taxes, we can’t make people pay them,” said Monroe. “And they still have until nine days before an auction to pay taxes.”

 

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