By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
A financial dispute over dead people has left officials in the village of Cooperstown and town of Otsego frustrated with one another.
The disagreement stems from services performed by the registrar of vital statistics, which is a job village officials perform town-wide. Registrar duties include birth and death certificates. While there are some births outside of the village, most are at Cooperstown’s Bassett Medical Center.
However, it is the deaths outside of the village boundaries that have been costly to Cooperstown. According to materials provided at the village’s Board of Trustees meeting Monday, July 26, the cost of providing death certificates to town residents has cost the village anywhere from about $1,300 annually to a recent high of $2,900 in 2015 when there were 290 death certificates prepared for residents outside of the village.
As per the old agreement, the town pays $250 annually and gets remitted the fees for certificates from its residents.
The village must keep and maintain the records, but Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said it is not adding up for village residents. “This is not sustainable,” she said. “This is a village tax, subsidizing service for the town of Otsego.”
This year the village billed the town for $1,500, which is an average of costs associated with the service. There were 194 death certificates for town residents from June 2020 to May 2021, Tillapaugh said.
In response, Town Supervisor Meg Kiernan wrote the trustees and said they made the request after the town budget had been prepared and the service had been provided at an agreed upon fee.
“Asking for the amount to be raised after the job has been performed does not seem to be in good faith,” she wrote.
To show the town’s good will, Kiernan sent $750, which the village board unanimously accepted after a long debate. With Kiernan and several town board members not running for re-election in November, Trustee Richard Sternberg suggested the village approach the new town officials and seek full reimbursements starting next year. The trustees agreed to bill the town based on the previous year’s costs in the future, which Tillapaugh said will allow the town to know in advance its share.
Kiernan, who was out of town last week, said she was surprised the village had to debate about accepting a check for more than it was owed by the town.
In a letter to the board, which was shared with The Freeman’s Journal, Kiernan said the town was incorporated first and village residents rely on the town for many services.
“I listened to the meeting online and was disappointed in the tone taken,” she wrote. “The future is in sharing services and doing what is best for residents.”