Halloran opposes outside billing

Halloran opposes outside billing
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rebecca Henely

City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) slammed the city Department of Finance and Water Board Sunday for maintaining post office boxes for residents’ property tax and water bill payments outside the state, but both agencies said the boxes’ locations were decided by the financial institutions that process the bills.

“The message is that you can’t do business in New York City,” Halloran said.

The councilman held a news conference at the U.S. Postal Service’s sorting facility, at 20th Avenue and Whitestone Expressway, with state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) and postal service union workers to protest Finance asking residents to send property tax payments to Newark, N.J., and the board requiring residents to send their water bill payments to Pittsburgh.

Halloran said given that the federal government has considered shutting down the College Point facility and sorting Queens mail in Brooklyn, asking residents’ to send payments to be sorted elsewhere was adding “insult to injury” in terms of sending jobs out of Queens.

“How much money do we save by keeping the jobs here?” Halloran asked.

A typical bill for the property tax looks like this:

If Paying The Easy Way Isn’t For You,

Mail Payment to:

NYC Department of Finance

P.O. Box 680

Newark, N.J. 07101-0680

Both agencies said in e-mails to TimesLedger Newspapers that the out-of-state boxes were set up by the financial institutions that process the city’s payments.

Owen Stone, spokesman for the Department of Finance, said property tax processing was once done in Kingston, N.Y., but the department entered into a five-year contract with Wells Fargo last year that centralized processing in Staten Island.

“The post office in Newark is closer and more convenient to the Staten Island location than the one in Lower Manhattan,” Stone said. “Using an NYC P.O. box could prevent same-day processing.”

He said the new contract will save the city almost $3.3 million throughout the next five years.

Farrell Sklerov, spokesman for the city Department of Environmental Protection, said the board has had a contract with the Bank of New York since 2006 to process the water bills. In consolidating its operations, the Bank of New York centralized its processing in Pittsburgh.

“Rather than incur up to $100,000 in additional unnecessary expense by having bills sent within NYC and then resent to the processing facility, the Water Board chose to maintain the existing contract until a new request for proposals is drafted in the near future,” Sklerov said.

He said the department has maintained a P.O. box in Manhattan to potentially use in the future.

Stephen Larkin, vice president of the Flushing chapter of the United Postal Workers Union, said the facility in College Point was capable of processing the bills.

“We have the highest productivity level of the five boroughs,” Larkin said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.