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Audit looks into financial management in Henrietta

Updated: 01/26/2014 11:16 PM
Created: 01/26/2014 6:42 PM WHEC.com
By: Amanda Ciavarri

What if you found out your town was collecting too much in taxes?

The state comptroller says the town of Henrietta charged its residents more taxes than it needed to run the town. An audit conducted by the state comptroller found this to be the case over the last two years.

So what does this mean for Henrietta residents and what do they think about it?

The audit states from 2011-2013 the state collected more, in taxes, than they needed to run the town, and they had no plan for that money.

News10NBC spoke to the current and former town supervisors about this audit.

“We've lived in Henrietta 18 years,” said Robert Price. “I understand why the town would want a surplus to continue operating when things are tougher.”

“Right now there is a $12-million surplus," said News10NBC’s Amanda Ciavarri.

"That is quite a bit,” said Price.

At town hall the new supervisor, Jack Moore, says he is going to make some changes.

“It was sloppy housekeeping,” said Henrietta Town Supervisor Jack Moore.
 
Moore says he feels there is no need to be in the green by $12-million. He says residents were overtaxed.

“We primarily have collected $1.5-million more than what we've needed to run the town,” said Moore.  

Moore says he is also is working on a credit card policy. This comes after learning about 40 credit cards that had been handed out to town leaders with no oversight.

The changes don't stop there. Moore is creating an ethics board. He says anyone who runs a department or handles money will have to take an ethics course.

In addition, Moore is hiring a financial director, a job the supervisor has done up until now.

“We are going to fix the wrongs and we will go forward,” said Moore.
 
So why weren't these problems addressed sooner?

News10NBC took that question to the former town supervisor, Michael Yudelson.
 
He says this surplus was collected from sales tax, not property tax.

News10NBC asked why not lower the property tax when they were pulling in so much in sales tax.

"We've always budgeted revenue conservatively because you don't want to come up short. I know to the comptroller's office they're saying you could have actually decreased taxes. Our town board for many years has felt it is better to keep taxes at the same rate, not raise them, but keep them for the buffer for the town,” said Yudelson.

Yudelson says he was qualified to be the financial director, and if he was off base with the budget, the town board could have corrected him. Moore served on the board for 6 years.

Yudelson adds that Henrietta has the second lowest property tax rate in Monroe county.

“What we have heard from people are they are satisfied to have it be there and just keep that so we can go as long as possible without a tax increase.

But that's not what we heard when we asked property owners.

“I would like to see some of that returned back to the tax payers,” said Price.

So what are the options for the surplus? The supervisor says tax payers could get a refund, or the town could use the money to buy a permanent facility for the recreation center and court house.

This is a story we will stay on top of. News10NBC will check in to see exactly what the town is doing with that surplus and bring you any updates and they become available.
 



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