People are calling City Hall asking when they can pay their taxes.
The answer is, they don’t have to wait for their bill, although City Tax Collector Ken Mallette would just as soon they do, to avoid confusion.
And when will they get their tax bills?
The answer: Should be in the mailbox by the end of this week – a good two weeks later than customary.
And, because this year’s mailing has been delayed, the deadline for the first quarterly payment has been pushed back to July 31.
“It’s still at the printers and should be hitting the streets in the next few days,” Mallette said Tuesday when asked for an update on the bills. Throwing a curveball into the process now is the consolidation of motor vehicle bills but, in the long run, that will make it easier for the city and the taxpayer. Presently, the city issues a bill, each with quarterly payments stubs, for every car registered in the city. What will happen now is that vehicles registered to the same person will appear on a single bill. The bill will list the VIN, the make and model, its valuation and the period for which it was owned.
“It’s going to cut down on everything for us,” said Mallette.
While taxpayers could combine tax payments for multiple vehicles, many people chose to write separate checks for each vehicle. Overall, the single billing system for multiple vehicles will eliminate about 20,000 invoices and a lesser number of payments processed by the tax collector.
As the mayor and the City Council increased the motor vehicle valuation exemption this year from $500 to $2,000, Mallette estimates the city will further reduce the tax bills by an additional 10,000.
While working to streamline the billing, Mallette aims to avoid what he termed was last year’s “perfect storm.” Last year’s water bills were late, pushing them into the hectic period when the tax bills are issued. In addition, because the city reduced the motor vehicle exemption from $6,000 to $500, there were an additional 30,000 bills. Faced with a blizzard of payments, plus a customary increase in inquiries that are part of the cycle, the city fell behind in depositing checks and posting accounts. That in turn prompted more calls, more pressure and more delays.
Water bills are out and Mallette said, “We’re gearing up the best we can [for the onslaught of payments].”
A fair chunk of payments – those escrow accounts billed electronically – are already starting to flow into city coffers. Those bills were electronically filed by the end of June and total more than $9 million. Also, the tax collector’s office is processing payments for taxpayers who can’t afford to wait for their bills because they’ll be out of town or other reasons.
“If they’re coming in the door to pay, we’ll take payment,” he said.
But Mallette encouraged people to wait for their tax bill, if they can.
As for the July 31 deadline, Mallette said the city would not post interest for the first quarterly payment “until we are caught up.” He said that would happen sometime in August but didn’t venture a date. Those choosing to pay their bills in full have until Sept. 15 without incurring interest.
The delay in billing is not expected to put a crimp in finances, although the city will hold off paying non-essential bills, according to chief of staff Mark Carruolo.
“We have sufficient reserves on hand right now,” Carruolo said.
He said the city wouldn’t have any issue with about $3 million in payments to teachers. That payment results from those teachers who have elected to have a single payment rather than spreading payments over the summer.