Today’s the day the first quarterly tax payment is due, unless you’re paying online.
And yesterday, the line of people holding their tax bills and payments stretched outside the door of the City Hall Annex. Many, like the woman who said she had waited for more than an hour, could have dropped her check and payment stub in a box provided for just that.
“I don’t trust that,” she said, “after what happened with those letters.”
She was one of more than 15,000 taxpayers who received letters this spring that told them they were delinquent on their payments. She didn’t want to go through straightening that out again. She said she wanted a receipt to prove she paid, in case there were any questions later on.
But, while she had to wait to get that receipt, at least the surroundings were tolerable. That wasn’t the case last week after a squirrel shorted out a transformer in the building and the resulting failure of the building’s two air conditioning units.
Interim Chief of Staff William DePasquale said yesterday that two temporary 5-ton air conditioners have been tied into the system pending the repair to the condensers to the old system. The city had considered completely replacing the condensers, however DePasquale said that would have also involved replacing the chiller units. Now, he said, it’s a matter of finding the proper refrigerants for the system and then it should be up and running again.
To test it out, and also see how long it all took, DePasquale said he joined the line to pay his taxes.
“It was pleasant,” he said. “As pleasant as it can be to pay taxes.”
DePasquale got an early start, so his wait wasn’t as long as some. He said the Tax Collector’s office is fully staffed and the line seemed to be “reasonable,” given it was the eve of the deadline.
DePasquale said there isn’t a grace period on quarterly payments, as was the practice in past years. Prior to the implementation of a lock box system, whereby mailed payments are sent to a Boston address, the city handled the depositing of all payments. After delays of several months in processing checks prompted angry calls from taxpayers seeking to balance their checking accounts, City Treasurer and acting Tax Collector David Olsen implemented the lock box system. Checks sent to the lock box are deposited within two days of receipt, thereby giving the city instant use of the cash and eliminating the processing delay for the taxpayer.
The faster system also eliminated the delay some taxpayers had come to rely on. That doesn’t mean, however, that the city won’t be extending some time for a breakdown in its own system.
DePasquale reported a snafu in payments made by credit card online. When taxpayers went to the city website, they could not connect to tax payments. He said that link was down for one or two days and those making tax payments by credit card would have the deadline extended to Friday.
“But that’s just for credit card payments,” he emphasized.
“We realize that for many people, using the online credit card system is the most convenient or practical way for them to pay their tax bills,” Mayor Scott Avedisian said in a statement. “Extending the deadline is the fairest way to ensure that those who pay online are not penalized because of the technical issues the vendor was experiencing. We appreciate taxpayers’ understanding and apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused.”