Recently OASD taxpayers received a letter advising that school tax bills were inadvertently sent out with taxes owed amounts incorrectly calculated. The letter also states that the Town Assessor’s office made the error. The letter did not indicate which assessor’s office allegedly made the error. This has also caused confusion amongst school taxpayers, causing many of the incorrect assessors to be called.
In my 25 years on the Town Board, I do not have any recollection of a similar situation ever occurring. In my 25 years on the Town Board, I have learned playing the blame game and pointing fingers does not serve anyone either. I will add as soon as I was made aware of the letter that was sent out on District letterhead, I made a telephone call to the District. I did not receive the courtesy of a return telephone call.
This error could have been avoided at several steps in the process by the different agencies involved. To lay the responsibility of the error at the desk of the Town of Owego Assessor is disingenuous to say the least. I stand 100 percent behind the Town of Owego Assessor. I state this because, while she may have been able to avoid this, information was not communicated to the Town or the Assessor to make her aware of the exempt properties in question.
In September 2019, a meeting was held between the county, school district, and the town to discuss the situation regarding the exempt properties. The issue was rectified for 2019-2020, not for the 2020-2021 school year tax liability. At the end of the meeting, it was determined that there would be a follow up meeting to discuss the 2020 – 2021 tax bill. That meeting was never held, and if one was, the town was not notified.
When I am reviewing the Town Budget I can recognize if tax rates are not in line by the history of the budget and the budget increases or decreases. I have, on several occasions, called on my bookkeeper to explain numbers that did not logically add up. At times there was a reason for the change and at times there was an error. The responsibility of that falls on the governing board.
As I stated above, there are several places in the process where this unfortunate error could have been avoided. One of them was at the town level. As I also stated, we were not notified. Since this situation has occurred, a plan is being put in place so that this does not happen again. The Town will take responsibility for its part in the process, but it will not accept the premise that this error lays at the Town of Owego Assessor’s desk.
Donald Castellucci, Jr.
Town of Owego Supervisor