Tax refund backlog being resolved
Suffolk County has announced a major milestone in clearing up the longstanding tax refund backlog. Due to the backlog, more than 11,000 refunds, including 745 cases in the Town of Islip, had been delayed for an average of one year, hurting taxpayers waiting for refunds and costing approximately $1 million in interest payments.
In addition to the interest costs, eliminating the backlog has saved taxpayers approximately $230,000 so far in 2015. The county also anticipates an estimated additional savings of $250,000 that could be recognized by the end of the year.
“This is a great day for Suffolk County taxpayers. Working together, Suffolk County has—for the first time—eliminated an elected office in the county government and successfully begun merging two offices, saving taxpayer dollars and improving efficiency,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. “At a time when people sometimes look at government and say there is a lot of partisanship, this is an example of putting politics aside to work together on the issues that matter and that affect peoples’ lives. I thank Comptroller [John] Kennedy and Treasurer [Barry] Paul for their hard work and support in demonstrating how we can make government better, resulting in a major step forward for the people of Suffolk County and a major savings for taxpayers.”
Although the merger does not officially take place until Jan. 1, the comptroller and treasurer were able to accomplish this task because in many ways, the merger has already begun. Both offices have improved processes and staff from these two offices and began working as one unit, and the result is that Suffolk County has improved systems and taxpayers are the beneficiaries.
“I was elected to be the fiscal watchdog for the county’s residents,” stated Comptroller John Kennedy. “After January 2016, my staff will incorporate new processes that will improve internal controls and cross-train current personnel to provide better efficiencies in all areas of property tax adjustments. My administration will ensure people are getting the most out of their government’s services. Suffolk County taxpayers deserve nothing less. In addition to the support of County Executive Bellone, Treasurer Paul and Legislator Bill Lindsay, I’d like to recognize the critical role that Legislator Kevin McCaffrey played in accelerating the consolidation effective date to Jan. 1, 2016.”
“This is a perfect example of a very effective team with collaborative relationships among employees within the department as well as across department lines,” said Treasurer Barry Paul. “This team of departments and employees working together will be ongoing into the future so that improvements can continue and taxpayers can see increasingly timely and efficient services from the finance functions of the county. I would like to thank the county executive and comptroller’s office for the support that has been given to the merger project and other efficiency projects contributing to the reduction in the tax refund process.”
“The merging of the comptroller’s and treasurer’s offices is a model that we should duplicate throughout the county as we look for other opportunities to create efficiencies,” said Legislator Lindsay III, author of the legislation to expedite the merger. “I’m extremely thankful to County Executive Bellone, Comptroller Kennedy, Treasurer Paul and their staff for working together, and I look forward to future savings and efficiencies realized within the department through this collaborative effort.”
Last November, more than 60 percent of Suffolk County voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to merge the offices in order to save taxpayer dollars, improve efficiency and eliminate unnecessary duplicative positions. Through County Executive Bellone and Comptroller Kennedy’s efforts, a plan was expedited to merge the offices in 2016, two years ahead of schedule, resulting in additional savings for Suffolk County taxpayers.
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