East Hampton Audit: Lack Of Procedure, Software Problem Caused Tax Bill Issue

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More than 5,000 tax bills were not printed or sent out to East Hampton Town residents this winter, according to Charlene Kagel, the town’s chief auditor.

After it was discovered that the tax receiver’s office had not sent out a large number of tax bills in January, when hundreds of phone calls and emails inundated Town Hall, the tax receiver’s office and the town clerk’s office, the town did an internal audit of the situation.

According to Ms. Kagel, who presented her findings to the Town Board at Tuesday’s work session, there was a lack of controls in place to ensure that all of the tax bills were printed. In addition, the software the office was using, MS Govern, had reset itself to sending only 800 bills to the printer, instead of 1,000. The Information Technology staff has since corrected it.

Ms. Kagel also found that there had been a backlog of deed transfers that had not been processed, causing further issues in getting out the tax bills. Homeowners who had bought their homes nine months prior had not received a tax bill for that reason, she said.

She said the staff had two weeks of unopened mail so all that had been collected had not been reconciled and reported to Suffolk County.

Furthermore, blank checks from seasonal residents were found to be kept in a safe that had routinely been open during the day.

Ms. Kagel suggested the town train its employees on Govern, and put a counting procedure in place so all the bills get sent out next time. Online access to view and pay tax bills is an alternative, she said.

Also on Tuesday, Pio Lombardo of Lombardo Associates presented part of his analysis of the East Hampton Town Scavenger Waste Plant. He recommended keeping costs down by reducing its operation to four hours a day, upgrading its system, closing down the building itself and lastly, considering closing the facility, at least seasonally.

He added that the town could save $40,000 to $50,000 a month if it made a few changes to the facility’s operation that could be put into water quality improvements.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to redirect funding from what in many respects is a black hole,” he said. “Environmentally you’re not getting any benefit from this expenditure.”

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