October 30, By Tara Law
The days of property owners having to rely solely on snail mail to get detailed information about their property taxes may soon be coming to an end, local politicians announced at a press conference in Astoria on Monday.
Astoria Councilman Costa Constantinides said that he will be introducing a bill in the City Council tomorrow that would mandate the creation of a web portal where property owners would have their own individualized accounts where they could pay taxes, track past payments, monitor their tax exemptions, check in on their tax exemption applications, and ask questions.
“This legislation would make the process more individualized, more transparent, secure, and actually quick,” Constantinides said. “Homeowners deserve a 21st century method of viewing information pertinent to their property.”
Currently, tax payers can pay their property taxes online but they are unable to obtain detailed account information via the Department of Finance website.
Constantinides said that the current system–which is heavily dependent on snail mail–has been the source of great frustration for many of his constituents.
For example, property owners who apply to the Department of Finance for a property tax exemption, such as the Senior Citizen Homeowners’ Exemption, must wait to be notified by mail to find out if they are successful. While waiting, property owners are unable to inquire about the status of their application, find out whether their application was filed correctly, or get notified in a timely fashion whether their application was successful or not.
Besides paying taxes, property owners are able to use the secure online portal to submit questions to the Department of Finance (DOF), view records, find out whether an exemption is about to expire, and the date in which they must reapply for an exemption. The website would be personalized for each taxpayer and frequently updated.
The new portal would be an addition to the current system and would not replace snail mail.
“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.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who represents Astoria, praised the new bill.
“The property tax system is problematic enough without having to navigate cumbersome bureaucracy,” said Simotas. “Having a responsible website like the Council Member envisions will ease some of the frustrations and make the whole process easier to navigate.”