Op-Ed

I’m committed to fixing Nassau’s tax-assessment system

Posted

Recently, I gave the order to post online tax-impact notices using last year’s tax levy and the new assessed market values for property owners across Nassau County. Throughout my first 11 months in office, I have been warned by many that the county’s assessment system is the third rail of Nassau politics. By pushing out the data online and to homeowners’ mailboxes by Dec. 1, I was walking a political tightrope. I hear and see the warning signals, but when I ran for office, I promised that I would fix the assessment mess. I plan to fulfill that promise.

Earlier this year, the County Legislature joined me to complete Nassau’s first reassessment since 2011. Our property assessments were wildly inaccurate and unfair, and this broken system was plunging the county deeper and deeper into debt. After eight years of frozen assessments and mass settlements under the Mangano administration, the assessed value of Class 1 residential properties countywide fell by about 33 percent — while in the real world, on the market, home prices steadily climbed.

Half of Nassau County’s property owners were paying more than their fair share, in effect subsidizing the other half. The loss of assessed value year after year drove up tax rates for school districts and other taxing jurisdictions. Now we have new, accurate market values, and the good news is that our homes are more valuable than they were 10 years ago.

I want to be straight with taxpayers. About half of the county’s property owners will see a decrease in their taxes, while the other half will see increases. To mitigate the impact of those increases, I am putting forth a Taxpayer Protection Plan.

I agree with the County Legislature’s majority that homeowners should not be expected to absorb significant assessment increases all at once. But we disagree on the best way to achieve this. The GOP majority’s plan to keep Mangano’s Class 1 level of assessment will not get us to tax accuracy and fairness for more than 50 years. That’s right — it would take over half a century to get to the correct numbers under their plan, and we would continue to lose grievance claims en masse, and accumulate more debt.

My proposed Taxpayer Protection Plan would transition to the new assessments over a period of at least five years for Class 1 homeowners, plus two years’ notice before the 2020-21 assessment rolls. (This year’s reassessment will not impact property taxes until late 2020.) I will seek the support the new State Senate Democratic majority to get this legislation passed.

In the weeks to come, you will get plenty of mail from property tax representation firms and from local legislators about the reassessment. Nassau County was the model for suburbia in the United States. We don’t want to be the first county to fail due to problems with property assessment. We cannot drive the county further into debt and dysfunction because of its corrupted assessment rolls. It’s time to fix the system.

Big changes always bring some uncertainty and anxiety. Unfortunately, some people are exploiting that anxiety with misinformation and fear-mongering. These same people did not offer solutions, but seemed content to let our inaccurate, unfair assessment system continue to degrade and corrupt our assessment rolls. I can’t let that continue.

The feedback on our new website, www.askthecountyassessor.com, has been terrific. At the new mobile satellite offices, we have handled more than 8,000 phone calls and met with more than 2,500 property owners. We have approximately 16,000 available time slots to schedule appointments through Jan. 31. I invite you to come in and get the facts.

I did not create the corrupted assessment system, but I am committed to fixing it.

Laura Curran is the Nassau County executive.