Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy said Huntington had the largest share...

Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy said Huntington had the largest share of erroneous tax arrears notices with 130, followed by Babylon with 70, 12 in Islip, 10 in Smithtown, and two each in Brookhaven and Southampton towns. 

The Suffolk County comptroller said workers’ unfamiliarity with a software system put in place after a countywide cyberattack in September is the reason tax arrears notices were recently sent in error to 226 homeowners.

The notices were included in tax bills sent by town tax receivers in December for payments due for 2022-23 from homeowners who successfully grieved their taxes in the past three years, Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. told Newsday on Thursday.  

He said Huntington had the largest share of erroneous notices with 130, followed by Babylon with 70, 12 in Islip, 10 in Smithtown, and two each in Brookhaven and Southampton towns.  Kennedy apologized for the mistake and said recipients should follow the instructions on the back of the notice.

“They should call 631-852-1501; that will take them directly to my delinquent tax section in Riverhead, where they will speak to a member of my staff who will confirm for them that their prior property tax has been fully paid, they have no arrears and that they are in good standing,” Kennedy said.

Impacted residents can also go to paymysuffolktaxes.com and look up their property, where they’ll see there is a zero balance due, the comptroller said.

The cyberattack using the ransomware BlackCat/ALPHV on the county’s networks was discovered Sept. 8. The attack has for months compromised data, slowed police, court, health department and real estate systems, and caused processing delays. 

Kennedy said that as a result of the cyberattack, the error was created by staff in the comptroller’s office running new software used to track delinquent tax cases.   

Plano, Texas-based Tyler Technologies removed the county from the primary system as a precaution because of the attack. It placed the county on a slower system with additional steps that Kennedy said his staff had not seen before.  

“And we had the additional element of an inability to access our system for weeks and then being set up on this awkward, slow, really ineffective product for what we have to do,” Kennedy said.

Tyler Technologies did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

The pre- and post-cyberattack software assembles files on properties that are in arrears; the county then supplies that information to town tax receivers across Suffolk County. Those files are normally assembled and sent in October, but after the cyberattack they were sent in early November, Kennedy said, before the reduced tax abatement was updated on the property records of residents who had successfully grieved their taxes. 

Town tax receivers send out bills for the upcoming year. Included in the bill is a notice —provided by the county — if the property tax is in arrears. Kennedy said the tax year begins Dec. 1 in Suffolk and that the county comptroller has exclusive authority over delinquent taxes.

“Because we were so late in the year, we didn’t want to miss the obligation to provide the tax receivers with the information,” Kennedy said. “So we had to send out the arrears file before we had all of the updates done of the successful grievances.”

Rocky Point-based tax grievance attorney Adam Heller said three of his clients called him after receiving notices in December.

“They were scared,” he said Thursday. “They were nervous that they were somehow being targeted because they filed a property tax grievance.” 

Heller said it caused some anxiety for the clients, who thought they were behind on their taxes. He said they only felt relieved after calling the county comptroller’s office.

“But they were still panicking between the time they received the letter and found out” it had been sent erroneously, he added.

The Suffolk County comptroller said workers’ unfamiliarity with a software system put in place after a countywide cyberattack in September is the reason tax arrears notices were recently sent in error to 226 homeowners.

The notices were included in tax bills sent by town tax receivers in December for payments due for 2022-23 from homeowners who successfully grieved their taxes in the past three years, Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. told Newsday on Thursday.  

He said Huntington had the largest share of erroneous notices with 130, followed by Babylon with 70, 12 in Islip, 10 in Smithtown, and two each in Brookhaven and Southampton towns.  Kennedy apologized for the mistake and said recipients should follow the instructions on the back of the notice.

“They should call 631-852-1501; that will take them directly to my delinquent tax section in Riverhead, where they will speak to a member of my staff who will confirm for them that their prior property tax has been fully paid, they have no arrears and that they are in good standing,” Kennedy said.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Workers’ unfamiliarity with a software system put in place after Suffolk County’s ransomware attack in September is the reason the erroneous tax arrears notices were sent out, said Comptroller John Kennedy.
  • Homeowners who successfully grieved their taxes in the past three years received the notices.
  • Huntington had the most erroneous notices with 130, followed by Babylon with 70, 12 in Islip, 10 in Smithtown, and two each in Brookhaven and Southampton towns. 

Impacted residents can also go to paymysuffolktaxes.com and look up their property, where they’ll see there is a zero balance due, the comptroller said.

The cyberattack using the ransomware BlackCat/ALPHV on the county’s networks was discovered Sept. 8. The attack has for months compromised data, slowed police, court, health department and real estate systems, and caused processing delays. 

Kennedy said that as a result of the cyberattack, the error was created by staff in the comptroller’s office running new software used to track delinquent tax cases.   

Plano, Texas-based Tyler Technologies removed the county from the primary system as a precaution because of the attack. It placed the county on a slower system with additional steps that Kennedy said his staff had not seen before.  

“And we had the additional element of an inability to access our system for weeks and then being set up on this awkward, slow, really ineffective product for what we have to do,” Kennedy said.

Tyler Technologies did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

The pre- and post-cyberattack software assembles files on properties that are in arrears; the county then supplies that information to town tax receivers across Suffolk County. Those files are normally assembled and sent in October, but after the cyberattack they were sent in early November, Kennedy said, before the reduced tax abatement was updated on the property records of residents who had successfully grieved their taxes. 

Town tax receivers send out bills for the upcoming year. Included in the bill is a notice —provided by the county — if the property tax is in arrears. Kennedy said the tax year begins Dec. 1 in Suffolk and that the county comptroller has exclusive authority over delinquent taxes.

“Because we were so late in the year, we didn’t want to miss the obligation to provide the tax receivers with the information,” Kennedy said. “So we had to send out the arrears file before we had all of the updates done of the successful grievances.”

Rocky Point-based tax grievance attorney Adam Heller said three of his clients called him after receiving notices in December.

“They were scared,” he said Thursday. “They were nervous that they were somehow being targeted because they filed a property tax grievance.” 

Heller said it caused some anxiety for the clients, who thought they were behind on their taxes. He said they only felt relieved after calling the county comptroller’s office.

“But they were still panicking between the time they received the letter and found out” it had been sent erroneously, he added.

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