By Bill Parry
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) introduced legislation Tuesday that would ease property tax management, creating greater transparency between the city’s Department of Finance and property owners. The bill would create a secure online portal for homeowners and other property owners to pay their taxes, directly submit questions to Finance and view other records.
They would be able to access specific information about their properties, including applications for exemptions like the Senior Citizen Homeowners’ Exemption, status of exemptions, date by which they need to apply to renew an exemption, whether anything has expired in their record, payment status, resources available and any other DOF documents
“For too long our city’s homeowners have had to contend with a cumbersome Department of Finance website and wait months for mailed letters only to find out their property tax exemption application was rejected or had already expired,” Constantinides said. “Homeowners deserve a 21st century method of viewing information pertinent to their property. This legislation would make the process more individualized, transparent, secure and quick. If property owners can more efficiently interact with the DOF and view property information, properties will be better managed and everybody wins.”
Property owners currently rely on receiving letters in the mail once per quarter with their property tax bill. If they apply for a property tax exemption, they have to wait for a mailed letter letting them know whether their application was accepted, rejected or incomplete. Letters addressed to the property owner could take months to receive. Property owners cannot directly call the DOF to inquire whether their application has been received, if any documents are missing or if their exemption is still active.
“The property tax system is problematic enough without having to navigate cumbersome bureaucracy,” state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said. “Having a responsive website as the Council member envisions it, will ease some of the frustrations and make the whole process easier to navigate.”
Marie Torniali, the executive director of the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition and Steinway Astoria Partnership, who was elected chairwoman of Community Board 1 last month, endorsed Constantinides’ measure.
“A secure website for property owners to pay their taxes, view pertinent information on exemptions, applications, payment status, and the like as well as submit questions will be a great tool for property owners to stay current, preventing loss of exemptions and late payments,” Torniali said. “The current system puts the onus on property owners and is inefficient, causes delays and negates the ability to rectify problems easily.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr