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MONEY MIX-UP: City mistake costs taxpayers thousands, mayor received benefit

BINGHAMTON (WBNG) — From 2014 to 2018, Broome County tax records show Binghamton Mayor Rich David received more than $4,000 in tax benefits he was not eligible for.

During this time period, the mayor received what is known as a STAR exemption, which stands for School Tax Relief exemption, for his primary residence in downtown Binghamton. A common tax break, the mayor was ineligible for STAR because he owned the property through an LLC, which is impermissible according to state guidelines.

The man responsible for determining who qualifies in the city for the benefit, Binghamton Tax Assessor Scott Snyder, said he did not previously know it mattered how you own the property to qualify for the STAR exemption, and that he made an honest mistake.

“This LLC or incorporated thing was something that I didn’t recognize through the years,” Snyder told 12 News. “It was brought to my attention, I reviewed it, and removed those exemptions.”

The mayor is not the only one to improperly receive these benefits. One of the city’s attorneys, Sharon Sorkin, told the public at a city council meeting back in April that four total properties received this benefit incorrectly.

The mayor categorically denied knowing anything was improper about the exemption, and said he took action as soon as he learned of the issue.

“Soon as I was notified, I immediately made the change that day,” Mayor David said. “Called my lawyer, told her to make the change and the next day moving forward everything was in compliance.”

The money that the mayor and the others received came out of city residents’ pockets. The city collects a flat amount of property tax each year, and creates a tax rate to determine how much everyone needs to pay to collect the necessary funds. When someone receives an exemption, he or she contributes less in property taxes, but because the city has to collect the same amount of money regardless, the other taxpayers have to carry the burden.

County tax records show the mayor has owned the property since 2006, but did not apply for the tax exemption until after he became mayor in 2014. He said he found out about the program from Snyder.

“Shortly after I took office, the city assessor made me aware I was eligible for an exemption that I wasn’t receiving, and did I want to receive it,” Mayor David said.

Mayor David said it’s not necessary to pay the money back as the state and county advised the city to change its procedures moving forward, but not retroactively seek repayment, and because he himself made no mistake, it wouldn’t be fair to “penalize” him. The state could not confirm any conversations it had with the city, but the Broome County Director of Real Property confirmed he spoke with the city about the situation, but denied ever discussing whether the money should be paid back.

12 News sent a list of questions to the city’s attorneys about the properties, and you can find their responses in full below:

1. How and when was the problem of the LLC-owned properties receiving STAR exemptions discovered?

Josh Rosenblatt

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