Tax bill error causes long lines, overpayments and turns into a campaign issue

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – More than 2,200 taxpayers got an incorrect tax bill around Labor Day and it’s causing confusion and lines at their tax office. Tuesday it turned into a campaign issue in the race for Monroe County executive.

No one disputes that thousands of people got a tax bill that made them pay more in school tax than they should.

Republican candidate Mark Assini says the county made the mistake. County Executive Adam Bello’s office says all the problems are in two towns that didn’t get the right information in. In the middle are homeowners who are confused and paid too much.

There was a line inside the Irondequoit Town tax office. Monday it stretched out the door. Everyone here got a new tax bill over the weekend with a pink slip that said they paid too much in school tax.

“Well we were just surprised because this has never happened before,” said one woman named Jean.

Brean: “How much money do you think you get back?”

Connie Milano: “I haven’t looked close enough to figure it out.”

Brean: “But you will get some back?”

Sam Milano: “Yeah, oh yeah. It’ll be a big help. Every little bit helps.”

A notice outside the tax office says a refund is coming in November.

Brean: “Let’s boil it down. What is the problem?”

Mark Assini, Republican candidate for county executive: “There are thousands of homes in Monroe County whose STAR exemptions were calculated incorrectly. So people were billed more than they should have been billed.”

STAR is the school tax rebate program.

Brean: “So who made the mistake here?”

Assini: “So the county is the one who loads this information into the real property system.”

After I talked to Assini, I took his claim to the county.

In an email, the county executive’s office says the problem is isolated to two towns that did not update star information.

The county says that impacted 1,228 properties in Irondequoit and 1,033 properties in the towns that make up the Wheatland-Chili school district.

The county spokesman wrote, “Monroe County is working with the towns to correct their error.” And then went on to write “Mr. Assini seeks to create conflict rather than collaborate with municipalities within Monroe County.”

Irondequoit says it’s refunding taxpayers who overpaid. The Wheatland Town supervisor is meeting with the school superintendent on Thursday.

Assini wants the state comptroller to audit the county tax office, citing a mistake with sales tax revenue earlier this year.

But the towns of Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Gates and Chili told me they have had no problems with their tax bills.