Nearly 40 residents who attended Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Donald Clavin Jr.’s tax forum on Nov. 29 at the Malverne Public Library had the same question: Why didn’t they receive a reminder, from the town that they owed taxes for the second half of the year?
Clavin told the crowd that he is at the mercy of the post office. “I can’t deliver the mail to your post office, and I cannot control what the post office does,” he said. “Obviously something broke down.”
Taxpayers who fail to pay the town on time are charged 2 percent interest fee and are assessed a $180 late processing fee.
Margaret Destefano, a resident who was charged a late fee blamed the post office for the missed reminder. She said that she uses a notification service that emails images of every letter and package delivered to her home. “Whoever the bulk mailing person was, something went wrong,” Destefano said.
“For 40 years I’ve always gotten a reminder,” said Peter Tumminello, a resident whose town tax bill jumped from $479 to $665 due to the fines. “I didn’t even know whether [the town] stopped sending reminders or not, but I just find it strange, because nothing like this has ever happened to me before.”
“If you think we didn’t send them, how is it that 96,000 residents paid their taxes?” Clavin said of the notices. “I feel bad that this happened, but there’s nothing more that the town can do.”
Malverne Village Assessor Rose Miller, who brought up the issue at a village board meeting on Nov. 1, said that senior citizens have also been affected. “It’s upsetting to anyone but for someone who’s living on a fixed income, it can really be bad,” Miller said. “Residents are accustomed to getting these reminders.”
Miller added that the town notified residents that they were late for their general tax bill when they received their school tax.
“The tax reminder that’s mailed out is a courtesy,” Clavin said. “In other townships in Nassau County, they just mail you the bill and call it a day. We try to put in a notice to [keep] people from missing it.”
Clavin urged residents to register for electronic billing. Most of those who attended the meeting agreed to do so. “We’re trying to implement things to avoid these pitfalls,” Clavin said. “There’s only so many safeguards that we can include.”
Miller recommended that residents sign up for third-party billing, in which a friend or relative gets a copy of the bill. “That way, if it’s lost or misdirected, it’s a safety net,” she said.
Residents can sign up for third-party billing by contacting Miller’s office at (516) 599-1200, ext. 108. Calls made to the U.S. Postal Service in Malverne were not returned by press time.