Seniors to keep extra rebate checks

They weren't calling to complain about not getting a rebate check. This week, a number of Nevada seniors called the Department of Motor Vehicles to say they got more than they deserve.

But state officials says they are among very few who got an extra check, and the governor has decided they should keep the money.

"I called a couple of my friends and we all got checks for having the car," said Gerri Murphy of Carson City. "Then we got another check for being a senior without a car. I'm not going to cash it. You've got to be honest."

Mary Santomauro of Silver Springs also said she got a second check, marked it "Void" and sent it back.

They are among 91,557 Nevadans who received the final batch of rebate checks mailed last week. Those checks went to Nevada's seniors who no longer have a registered vehicle but do still have a driver's license, and for those who were missed on the list of 2004 registrations because they sent in their money early in December 2003.

They were missed in the first mailing of some 1.8 million checks rebating the amount people paid in car registration fees last year.

The rebate was Gov. Kenny Guinn's method of returning $300 million in surplus tax revenue received by the state.

"I called four friends and three of them got the extra checks," said Murphy, who is over 65 and has a registered car.

"I just figured it was the usual DMV computer we spent millions to fix. And it ain't fixed yet," she said.

One of those friends, Shirley Buchheaster, said she too is over 65 and has a car - and received an extra check. She said she had no plans to cash the extra check, either.

"Somebody will recognize the mistake eventually," she said.

But DMV spokesman Tom Jacobs said that's precisely what they should do with the checks. He said only a few people who got an extra check and the governor's office doesn't want the money back.

"The intention of the governor was to get checks into the hands of as many people as possible, so they're welcome to keep the check," he said. "The governor is confident everybody who got the check deserves it."

Jacobs said DMV expected some problems like this to occur, but that "it's far better to have someone get an extra check than to leave out somebody who deserves a check."

Jacobs said the computer pulled the names of all those 65 and over with driver's licenses and compared that list to the checks already issued. All seniors with a driver's license who didn't already get a check as a vehicle owner were issued checks last week. But he said the system didn't recognize such things as trusts, different first name spellings and other irregularities in the files.

He said in Buchheaster's case, she got the check because the vehicle was registered under a trust, not in her name. In Murphy's case, he said, the computer didn't recognize that Gerri and Geraldine were the same person. In both cases, extra checks were issued.

"We expected glitches because the computer system wasn't designed to do this," he said.

-- Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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