Buchanan proposes consolidating elected posts of receiver of taxes and clerk 

Enterprise file photo — Elizabeth Floyd Mair 
Lynne Buchanan speaks at Guilderland's Democratic caucus in April 2019.

GUILDERLAND — Lynne Buchanan, Guilderland’s current receiver of taxes, is running unopposed for town clerk in November. She has proposed that she do both jobs.

Buchanan outlined for the town board at its Aug. 13 meeting ways that she has saved money by having her department do work in-house; she also outlined ways staff at both departments could share duties for better efficiency, accessibility, and savings.

The town board voted to set a public hearing for 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 3 on the idea of abolishing the elective office of receiver of taxes and folding those duties into the work of the town clerk. 

Abolishing the post would be subject to a mandatory referendum at the Nov. 5 general election. 

The town’s adopted budget for 2019 lists the salaries requested for town clerk and receiver of taxes at $62,507 each. 

It’s cost-effective for the town, Buchanan told The Enterprise, not to need to pay two department heads. Asked if her salary would go up, Buchanan said that that had not been discussed and would be discussed only after the proposal is passed. 

According to town law and municipal home rule law, the town board can make changes to the office of town receiver of taxes including abolishing the office, subject to mandatory referendum, and transferring its functions and duties to the town clerk or another town office. 

Because Jean Cataldo is retiring as clerk, and she is running for clerk unopposed, this would be a good time to merge the offices, Buchanan told The Enterprise.

Buchanan was the deputy receiver of taxes under Jean Cataldo for several years before Cataldo became clerk and Buchanan became receiver of taxes, both in 2013. 

Over the last six years, Buchanan said, she has been streamlining all the processes in the tax office, which has “cut back on repetitive tasks.” That refining, she said, has freed up staff. 

She has also brought procedures in-house that were previously done by outside companies, including processing of tax payments in-house starting in September 2014 and printing and sorting of tax bills in-house since September 2017.

Buchanan wrote in a memo to the town board, which she shared with The Enterprise, that processing tax payments in-house enables the tax office to stay on top of any payment issues that may arise and allows for balancing all reports daily, “requiring only minutes versus hours of reconciliation.”

Buchanan wrote that printing and sorting tax bills in-house contributed to town residents receiving tax bills in a timely fashion and reduced phone calls from anxious residents waiting for bills to arrive. 

Bringing these procedures in-house and completing the work by coming in early and staying late when necessary is preferable to her, she said, over waiting for an outside company to complete the same procedures.

“I’m more of a hands-on manager,” buchanan said. “I don’t sit back and watch other people work. I never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself.” 

She said that the town might look into hiring an additional floating employee, to be used where necessary, who Buchanan could use in the office’s busiest times. 

One measure Buchanan would like to see, she wrote in her memo, is to cross-deputize the deputies in each department. Buchanan told The enterprise that these deputies are Anna Russo in the clerk’s office and Tracy Mayer in the tax office. That would allow, for instance, she said, Russo to help with tax payments, “because there are a lot of regulations on who can take tax payments and work in the tax office.” 

Cross-training, she wrote, would allow residents to receive assistance at both the town clerk’s counter and the tax-receiver’s counter at Town Hall for services being offered in either department, and spread the workload among staff. This will increase efficiency “while continuing superior customer service,” she wrote.

Buchanan also plans to look into consolidating software programs, she wrote in her memo. Prior to that, she wrote, she would like to see the town clerk’s current software added to the computer station at the tax counter, which would allow staff there to assist with dog licenses, town resident stickers, and accessible parking permits.

In her memo to the town board, Buchanan also included a list of counties of a size comparable to Guilderland that have combined clerk and tax offices. All are in Monroe or Erie counties. 

Councilwoman Rosemary Centi, who was the town’s first Democratic clerk and held the post for 13 years before retiring in December 2013, said at the Aug. 13 town board meeting that Buchanan “has done an amazing job of cost-cutting, cost-saving.” Centi said she feels very confident Buchanan can handle the responsibilities of both jobs and that she is “highly in favor of the consolidation” and that she would have loved to have seen it done years ago. 

The board voted unanimously to set the public hearing. 

In a separate matter, the town board will also hold a public hearing Sept. 3, at 7:30 p.m., on a proposed local law, adding provisions for supplemental notice of public hearings and a pre-application conference for certain land-use applications. 

 

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