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PR- 480-07
December 31, 2007


Remarks by Mayor Bloomberg at a Public Hearing on Local Laws

"The first of seven bills before me today is Introductory Number 656, sponsored at the request of the Administration by Speaker Quinn and Council Members Weprin, Gennaro, Fidler, Liu, James, Avella, Brewer, Comrie, Gentile, Gerson, Gonzalez, Koppell, Nelson, Recchia, Stewart, Yassky, Vacca and Sears. Introductory Number 656 extends the Department of Finance's authority to sell tax liens until 2010, as well as authorizes the City to conduct lien sales of delinquent water and sewer charges, without a property tax component, on certain class one and two residential properties.
"Currently, the Department of Finance cannot sell a lien on a residential property if the owner only owes water and sewer charges. As a result, there are no effective collection tools available to penalize property owners who do not pay their water and sewer bills which results in higher rates for those property owners who do pay. The lien sale has been a very effective enforcement mechanism for collecting property taxes, resulting in the collection of over $1.1 billion in delinquent charges over the last eleven years. Selling stand alone water liens will lead to greater compliance, better collections, and to more timely resolution of any potential mistakes.

"While only fifteen percent of property owners have delinquent water and sewer bills, they account for approximately eighty-seven percent of the money owed to the Department of Environmental Protection, or approximately $600 million. This small percentage of delinquent payers continues to place a burden on the majority of responsible property owners who pay their bills on time.

"Introductory Number 656 will reauthorize and extend to 2010 the authority to sell tax liens based on delinquent property taxes or delinquent water and sewer charges. This legislation also adds the authority to conduct lien sales of delinquent water and sewer charges independent of other delinquency, provided that the water and sewer charges have been delinquent for at least one year and equal or exceed one thousand dollars. In addition this legislation extends the notification period from sixty to ninety days; creates a unit to be housed in the Department of Environmental Protection  to provide special assistance to all water and sewer customers facing a lien sale; and provides protections for certain senior citizens, people with disabilities and low income homeowners.

"Although in the past several months the Department of Environmental Protection has made significant improvements in customer service, this alone will not lead to increased collection of delinquent payments. Introductory Number 656 strikes a balance between the City's need to maintain reliable collections with the essential goal of preserving home ownership. This legislation provides an essential set of enforcement tools while maintaining a safety net for our most vulnerable populations - senior citizens, people with disabilities and low income homeowners. Most importantly, this legislation will remedy the unfair burden placed on responsible property owners who carry the costs of water and sewer service for those who do not pay.

"I would like to thank Speaker Quinn, Department of Finance Commissioner Martha Stark, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd, Office of Management and Budget  Director Mark Page, and all the agency staff who worked on this bill. I would also like to thank the Council for approving this legislation."


Stu Loeser/Michael Levoff   (212) 788-2958

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