Baltimore officials said Wednesday that people can once again pay property tax bills and parking tickets online, although the city’s water billing system remains unavailable about eight weeks after a ransomware attack took down the city’s computer systems.
The restored services are another milestone in the city’s lengthy recovery from the attack, which involved hackers locking up files and demanding a payment. Officials have previously said almost all city employees’ emails have been restored.
Monday marked the beginning of a new fiscal year. That’s when Baltimore imposes property taxes that fund a third of the city’s annual budget.
Although the online payment portal restored was Tuesday for this year’s property taxes, vehicle citations, permit fees and some minor taxes, there is still work to be completed. For instance, not all parking tickets appear yet as available for payment.
That’s because a backlog of paper citations continues to be assessed and as appropriate, added to the online database, according to James Bentley, a spokesman for Democrat Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young. Bentley recommended residents mail payments for such tickets to the city office address on the citation.
The mayor’s office said the city won’t assess late fees on parking tickets issued in May, June or July. Customers who paid erroneous late fees will be able to get refunds, the mayor’s office said.
Also, the city continues to ask people selling real estate to sign affidavits that they will pay any outstanding bills associated with their properties. Some of the information officials usually check before producing the “lien certificate” necessary for a sale to go through remains unavailable.
The announcement Wednesday made no mention of the water billing system, which has been frozen since the May 7 attack. Asked why it remains offline, Sheryl Goldstein, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff for operations, said, “We’re bringing up systems as they’re available and functioning properly.”
“The water billing system is in the process being restored and tested,” Goldstein said, “but isn’t ready to be brought up yet.”
Goldstein was unable to provide a time frame for when that system would be restored for customers’ use.
While the restoration of the payment system is a visible sign of the city’s progress, officials have said that fully recovering from the attack could take months.
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The incident is estimated to have cost the city $10 million in new hardware and consulting fees and $8 million in lost or delayed revenue.