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An independent accounting review has confirmed that the multimillion-dollar backlog of taxpayer checks in the Buffalo city treasurer's office has been cleared.

The review suggested that the city avoid such problems in the future by encouraging taxpayers to mail their checks directly to the city lockbox account at M&T Bank. It also recommended a change in city treasury procedures to eliminate duplicate processing of mail-in payments.

The review by Philip Kadet, a partner of the accounting firm of Lumsden & McCormick, followed a public outcry about a backlog of more than $12.5 million in uncashed checks from taxpayers that led to the resignation Feb. 20 of City Treasurer Marilyn J. Smith.

Because of the backlog, hundreds of property owners received notices that they were delinquent on their taxes, which were due Dec. 31. In his review, Kadet found that "the backlog of unprocessed cash receipts, which existed Feb. 23, was processed and deposited by Feb. 28."

Kadet reported that since then, receipts have been processed "on a timely basis" and that all February transactions were "complete and timely."

Mayor Masiello commended the treasury staff for its work.

"A smaller treasury staff got the deposits caught up and continued processing payments in a timely, professional manner," the mayor said.

The city can avoid backlogs in the future, the report noted, if mail-in payments go directly to the city account at M&T Bank.

"The main item affecting timeliness of cash receipt processing is the processing of mail receipts directed to the treasurer's office," the report said. "Mail-in receipts to City Hall must be aggressively redirected to the M&T lockbox, which was set up to handle and process such receipts in volume."

Masiello said he would confer with City Comptroller Joel A. Giambra to ensure that the recommendations are followed.

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