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Nearly $1M sent to City of Rochester in error

March 14, 2019 08:08 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) – Nearly one million dollars in mortgage tax receipts was sent to the City of Rochester in error.

County Clerk Adam Bello announced on Thursday his administration 'discovered design flaws in a system implemented in December 2015, four months before he took office.'

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Every time someone buys a new home, part of the fee goes to the town where the home is located. In this case, certain mortgages filed electronically were defaulting to the City of Rochester instead of the homeowner's town.

Towns typically estimate the amount of mortgage tax they'll receive each year, basing it off the real estate market. Since it is not an exact amount of revenue, nearby towns were not aware the money was missing.

"Earlier this year, the City of Rochester contacted the county clerk's office questioning an unusually large mortgage tax payment received in December.  This prompted Bello to launch an internal review of the county clerk's entire mortgage tax recording process," stated the Monroe County Clerk's Office.

His office is working with the City of Rochester to distribute the money back to the proper towns. 

Here are the estimated mortgage tax adjustments per town for the years 2016-2018

City of Rochester

$ (989,770.00)

Brighton

$ 66,181.50

Chili

$ 37,569.00

*Clarkson

$9,542.50

East Rochester

$3,730.50

Gates

$32,521.50

Greece

$114,651.00

Hamlin

$19,892

Henrietta

$105,612.00

Irondequoit

$74,451.50

*Mendon

$15,800.50

*Ogden

$31,026.00

*Parma

$25,972.50

Penfield

$93,951.50

*Perinton

$143,188.00

*Pittsford

$89,230.50

*Riga

$7,742.00

Rush

$9,732.00

*Sweden

$17,943.50

Unassigned

$2,791.00

*Webster

$75,918.00

*Wheatland

$12,323.00

*Village distribution amounts are yet to be determined

In Irondequoit, which will get around $74,000, Town Supervisor Dave Seeley tells us the payment will be categorized as 'one-shot revenue.'

Since it's not a reoccurring payment, he explained it won't be used to fund an operation in the budget. Instead, it will be used for some sort of capital or equipment purchase; a sidewalk plow or police car, for example.

Henrietta will be getting six figures, totaling more than $105,000.

Town Supervisor Stephen Schultz said, "I am glad the county clerk was able to locate this error in how the system was set up in the past. The magnitude of the error would have continued to grow as a greater number of mortgages are registered online. For Henrietta, it represents over $100,000 in lost, and now found, revenue. We will add that revenue to our General Fund balance to help keep the tax rate flat for next year."

Penfield will get more than $93,000.

Town Supervisor Tony LaFountain said, "We are just hearing about this misallocation and being early in the 2019 budget year, my first thought is it would help offset the extreme arbitrary proposed cut to Aid & Incentives to Municipalities (AIM Funding) by the governor well after our 2019 budgets were adopted."

The Gates town supervisor echoed the sentiment, saying the money would be used to offset and subsidize the impact of losing AIM funding.

The Town of Gates will be receiving just over $32,000.

Supervisor Cosmo Giunta explained Gates would stand to lose $195,000 if AIM is eliminated, so the mortgage tax adjustment could help save a potential service the town was otherwise forced to eliminate.

"I want to thank city officials for first alerting us to this issue. It is a great example of government working together to solve problems," said Bello. "Our new computer system, unveiled in September 2018, is much more user-friendly and gives our staff the ability to make corrections at multiple points in the system." 

Bello also renewed his request for assistance from the New York State Comptroller's Office to look through systems and procedures. 

Credits

Stephanie Robusto

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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