New York City’s generous setup of granting fee exemptions of water bills for religious institutions, such as churches, synagogues and mosques, is now being called for review by the city’s independent budget watchdog, The Daily News reports.
The generous setup and other water and sewer fee exemptions cost the city $22 million in 2011, according to the Independent Budget Office. “It still makes sense to periodically reevaluate the rationale behind the break on water bills, just like it makes sense to review any kind of spending on an ongoing basis,” said Doug Turetsky, director of the Independent Budget Office.
Under the law, Daily News reporter Reuven Blau notes, religious institutions get up to $242 per day free, with any charges above that until $484 getting 50% percent discount.
An attempt last year by the Bloomberg administration to save an estimated $17 million by charging churches, museums and colleges for trash removal, was removed from the budget after major opposition from religious groups and city elected officials — including Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who warned the fees would cut into charitable organizations’ ability to provide basic services to needy neighborhoods.
The Independent Budget Office also released the names of two yeshivas and a Christian Church that never signed up for the exemption, leading to large unpaid bills.
Klausenberg yeshiva owes nearly $200,000 after going years without applying for the exemption. Satmar yeshiva, the second highest deadbeat, is swimming in $89,000 in water bill debt, according to records obtained by the Daily News.
The city does not grant any retroactive exemptions.
(Jacob Kornbluh – YWN)