News10NBC Investigates: Mistake declared Fairport woman dead, which caused all kinds of tax problems

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FAIRPORT, N.Y. – Mistakes happen, but sometimes they cause complicated problems. That’s what happened when an employee in the Town of Perinton Assessor’s Office used an obituary to update records and put in the wrong last name.

Eleanor Wegman detected a problem last year when her neighbors got their property tax rebate checks and she didn’t. She went to the Perinton Tax Office to find out why and the news got worse.

“Not only did I not get (the rebate), she said that I was declared deceased,” Wegman said. “I laughed. At first I laughed. It was kind of the joke of my friends.”

But it put Wegman in limbo. She couldn’t get her rebate check, her enhanced STAR, and she had to file an extension for her taxes.

The problem started when another woman in Fairport named Eleanor passed away.

In 2022, the family of Eleanor Salvage gave Perinton a copy of her obituary as proof of her passing so the town could remove the STAR exemption from her property. But, instead of entering the correct last name, an employee in the assessor’s office entered the place where Salvage worked, Wegmans. So, when the data entry was done, Eleanor Wegman, not Eleanor Salvage was declared dead. Wegman’s Fairport school tax bill says “the estate of Eleanor Wegman.”

“Our assessment officer erroneously marked her as deceased,” said Perinton Supervisor Ciaran Hanna.

Since I contacted his office last week, Hanna got Monroe County to correct its records so Fairport schools can cut Wegman a STAR rebate check.

Hanna says this exposes a problem for town tax offices. He would like to see a system change where the county shares death notices with the county’s real property office.  

Ciaran Hanna, Perinton Supervisor: “And they can determine whether they have a STAR exemption or not, and if they do, then the municipalities are notified.”

Brean: “And that could prevent a municipality from using things like an obituary where names can get mixed up.”

Hanna: “Correct.”

“Well, there’s a lot of worse things in life I say, but eventually this has got to be resolved,” Wegman said. “It’s not the end of the world but it is frustrating.”

There is still the issue of her property tax rebate check. I contacted the state tax office. They called Wegman today and that problem should be getting fixed.