By definition a comptroller’s job is to make sure an institution’s financial reporting is on the up and up.
Last Thursday New York City’s comptroller, John Liu, explained to Community Board 3 in Corona what institutions he was looking into and how he is planning to save the taxpayers’ money.
When looking at Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget, Liu told CB3, he didn’t want to cut money everywhere. For example, he questioned why 16,000 childcare slots are on the chopping block. However, one area that needs tightening is the amount of “high-paid consultants,” he said. Liu said the amount of money spent on these consultants “is doubling.”
“The incentive is use as many hours as possible,” said Liu, because these consultants are paid by the hour.
Last month Liu’s office audited the Emergency Communications Transformation Program. ECTP’s project to consolidate emergency communications was scheduled for completion in 2008, but now has an end date in 2015 and is a billion dollars overbudget.
Liu’s office rejected a request from the project’s manager, the City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, for a $286 million contract for hourly consulting fees. Liu’s office said these hours were “ill-defined.” DoITT resubmitted a proposal for consulting hours at a budget of $95 million.
Preliminary property assessments increased by sometimes more than 100 percent, according to Liu.
A failure to pay these property taxes can land homeowners on the tax lien sale list. Residents can view the list at nyc.gov/dof/html/property/property_bill_tax lien.shtml.
“Spend a couple of minutes to make sure you are not on this list,” said Liu, who added that in Jackson Heights and Corona there are 100 homes on it.
Homeowners who owe more than $2,000 in water and sewer bills may be on the list, and their properties could be sold off.
There are exemptions for seniors, low-income individuals, the disabled and veterans who own homes.
Arrangements to settle taxes must be made by May 17.
Dorothy Phelan, co-chairwoman of the CB3 Housing Committee, asked about renters’ rights. Liu responded that exemptions only apply to the homeowner. Renters should check if their landlord is on the list, said Liu.
Board member Edwin Westley asked Liu what he planned to do about $100 million slated for community improvements around the airports, including parts of CB3’s area around LaGuardia Airport. Liu said an agreement was reached between JFK and LaGuardia airports and the Port Authority to extend contracts. Part of the agreement was that some money was slated to improve neighborhoods around the airports.
“The funds did not go where they should have gone,” said Liu.
Instead they went to a development project in West Queens, he said.
“My office is looking at EDC [the city Economic Development Corporation] intensely,” he said. “They have lots of power with very little transparency.”