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2010 News Releases

November 16, 2010

Zita Allen, Communications Director
Molly Charboneau
Rudy Orozco

DC 37 cites uncollected taxes and contract rate reductions that would generate over $500 million annually in revenue and savings

In letter to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts says city’s failure to collect taxes on billboards and cell phone towers and erroneous property tax exemptions cause needless cuts in services and undue burden on taxpayers.

New York, N.Y.Today, DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts, head of the city’s largest public employee union, made public her letter to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pinpointing revenue-generating proposals that she said would improve the City’s economic condition and reduce any undue burden on taxpayers by generating over $500 million annually through uncollected taxes and contract rate reductions.

Roberts said, “Our union represents several revenue-producing titles throughout various city agencies and reductions in the staffing for these titles has limited the city’s ability to ensure that businesses and institutions pay their fair share of taxes. In effect, it gives the haves a tax cut while shifting the financial burden onto middle class have-nots with hikes in fares, fees, tolls, water rates and more.”

Roberts pointed out that over the last eight years, since Mayor Bloomberg took office, the number of tax assessors in the NYC Department of Finance has shrunk from 170 to less than 110. At the same time, the number of parcels being assessed on the tax rolls has grown from 250,000 to over 300,000. The number of city tax auditors has also decreased from 420 to 280. Roberts called the reductions “penny-wise and pound foolish because these workers generate billions in tax revenue for the city of New York.”

In her letter to the Mayor, Roberts makes four key recommendations that she said would generate new revenue and reduce the projected budget deficit:

  1. Collection of Tax Revenue for BillboardsThe city could generate over $22 million in additional revenue, the union estimates, by collecting the proper fees on billboards both in Transit Authority parcels, which are sub-licensed to third parties, as well as an increased collection of revenue for under-assessed or un-reported billboards in the Real Property Income Expense Statements.

  2. Increased Collection of Tax Revenue for Cell Phone Antennas – Throughout the city there are approximately 9,000 cell sites. According to the New York City Tax roll for FY 2009, the Department of Finance collected taxes for only 3,300 antennas. DC 37 estimates that more than 30% of the cell phone antennas are not being taxed. Each antenna could bring to the city between $7,000 and $10,000 per year. The union estimates that this would generate between $19 - $27 million in additional taxes and fees.  

    Under Local Law 99 (2005), the Department of Buildings must maintain a list of permits issued for the erection or placement of call antennas. More than 4,800 permits have been filed since the law was implemented.

  3. Reduction of Improper Property Tax Exemptions – The assessed value of property tax exemptions has more than doubled since FY 2001, zooming from $18 billion to $39 billions. Yet, during that same period, the number of property parcels has remained relatively flat (14.024 to 15,393). The largest hike in tax-exempt properties has been in the category of charitable organizations, many of which have been continued in error when owners of for-profit institutions purchased parcels from non-profit organizations or religious institutions. One reason for the decrease in tax collection is the fact that the seven city tax assessors responsible for monitoring and verifying the accuracy of the exemptions have all been laid-off or removed from the process. Corrections in this exemption process could generate over $173 million in property tax revenue for the city

  4. Voluntary Contract-Rate Reduction Program – The sharpest increase in the rates for city contracts is in the area of personnel, professional and consultant services. Between FY’05 and FY ’10 the rates for this category of contracts increased by an average of 79% (or 15% per year.)

“It is a matter of fairness and equity that the private contractors, who have often received no-bid contracts from the city and who have profited enormously over the last five years, now share the pain,” Roberts said explaining the union’s proposal that the city implement a 15% voluntary contract rate reduction similar to one implemented in Chicago and Los Angeles.

“Our calculations show that for FY’11, this would save over $318 million in the cost of contracting-out that we have shown, in previous reports, has ballooned to $9.5 billion. The recommendations offered in this recent letter to Mayor Bloomberg represent the tip of the iceberg but we strongly believe that the city should focus on generating revenue and stop targeting public employees jobs, pensions, benefits and the vital services they provide to New Yorkers who need them now more than ever.” 


District Council 37 is New York City’s largest public employee union, with 125,000 members and 50,000 retirees.


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