Hot off an electoral victory from last November, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) spoke to TBR News Media on a number of topics including a new county online tax filing system, the need for more cohesion on how towns send their tax rolls to his office and the potential of running for Suffolk County executive in 2019.
Online tax filing for delinquent taxes
Kennedy announced a new online filing service that will be available to Suffolk County residents after the tax season ends May 31.
‘With this new software component somebody is able to pay taxes on a Sunday.’
— John Kennedy Jr.
The program, called Citizen Self Service, will allow residents to plug in their bank account and routing numbers instead of sending the county a paper check to pay late or delayed property taxes.
“With this new software component somebody is able to pay taxes on a Sunday,” Kennedy said. “[People who don’t use technology] are something we, in government, have to be mindful to accommodate.”
Each township’s receiver of taxes mails out tax bills mid-December and are payable to the tax receiver from Dec. 1 through May 31. If a resident fails to pay their taxes on time, they become delinquent and must pay their taxes to the county comptroller with an additional 5 percent interest plus 1 percent for each additional month the taxes are late. Payments received later than Aug. 31 are charged an additional tax sale advertising fee.
Kennedy said the existing pay-by-mail system will remain in place. The comptroller’s office also hosts a pay-by-phone system that allows property owners to talk to a representative and pay the bill that way, but Kennedy said that system is limited in the amount of time it takes and the business hours of the comptroller’s office.
“We always must make an ability for someone to go ahead and transact,” he said.
Need for consistency between towns
The comptroller said there have been issues in the past with how municipalities report tax payments to his office. Suffolk County towns must give lists to the comptroller’s office on which bills were paid and those persons or businesses that are tax delinquent. The issue, Kennedy said, was no two towns currently use the same system to file these reports.
“I have 10 town tax receivers to deal with regarding their individual software systems for the record of tax collection,” he said. “We have to drive uniformity amongst the towns — one way or the other they will have to pass muster through us.”
Some towns are more accurate than others, according to Kennedy, as he named the Town of Islip as the most consistently accurate and on-time with its tax reports. Most municipalities collect approximately 90 to 95 percent of their areas property taxes. The comptroller’s office must then spend time going back and forth between the towns’ tax receiver offices to work out those discrepancies.
Kennedy said he’s soon planning to implement, on a prototype “scrubbing system” that will find mistakes on each town’s end and flag them to be fixed before the documents reach the comptroller’s office. The system will first start on a preliminary basis with Brookhaven and Smithtown townships this year.
Potential run for county executive
‘Do I think I could do a better job than the current county executive? Yes, my answer to that is yes.’
— John Kennedy Jr.
Kennedy is only a few months out from his Nov. 6 victory against Democratic challenger Jay Schneiderman for his second term in office. It was close as Kennedy received only 50.88 percent of the votes.
Still, the comptroller is now weighing the pros and cons of running for the office of county executive.
“I am weighing the possibility, but I have not made any decision yet regarding it,” he said. “Do I think I could do a better job than the current county executive? Yes, my answer to that is yes.”
Part of his decision-making process is figuring if he would trust another person to take up the duties and responsibilities of Suffolk’s comptroller.
“Do I know of anybody that comes to mind, anybody who would embrace the position that I have? I don’t know.” Kennedy said. “The thing that allows me to be aggressive, is the time I spent in the Legislature, the time I was minority leader, my experience in government and my experience as an attorney.”
Read TBR News Media next week for Kennedy’s take on Suffolk’s financial status, how it could impact residents and the upcoming police contract negotiations.