Residents of Rockville Centre, Freeport and several other villages in the Town of Hempstead are wondering when they will receive their tax refunds after an error on their tax bills cost many households as much as a few hundred dollars.
Homeowners saw a hike of nearly 75 percent in their sewage disposal taxes, according to Karen Contino, press secretary for County Executive Laura Curran, amounting to a total increase of about $9.3 million. Residents outside Rockville Centre, Freeport, Garden City, Hempstead and Mineola were slightly undercharged, according to Curran. Rockville Centre Mayor Francis X. Murray and Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy helped point out the error in February.
County Legislators Laura Schaefer and Debra Mulé reported it to Curran, who introduced a local law that would allow the county to issue refunds for those who have paid taxes in full or issue a corrected tax bill for second-half payments.
But three months after the discovery of the error, some are wondering when they will see the money.
Contino said that refunds would begin to go out in October, after the general tax-levy collection deadline of Aug. 31. Those undercharged will see the adjustment in their 2019 bill.
Town of Hempstead residents recently received a corrected tax bill for the second half of 2018, which included a note that read “Nassau County Goofed!”
“This overcharge was the result of Nassau County providing the town with a defective tax roll, the basis upon which tax bills are issued,” a note attached to the corrected bills stated. Though the amount for the second half was corrected, the note added that “any overage paid on the original first half will be refunded by the Nassau County Treasurer.”
“It’s embarrassing,” Rockville Centre resident Jeff Greenfield told the Herald. “Taxpayers aren’t interested in finger-pointing. They’re interested in seeing the money returned.
“With interest!” he added loudly.
The Town of Hempstead urged anyone with questions to call the Nassau County Treasurer’s Office.
“I might as well have called 1-800-CONFUSED,” Greenfield wrote in a letter to Donald Clavin, the town receiver of taxes. “The taxpayers of Rockville Centre need answers, not excuses and finger-pointing. Here’s hoping we get some real response and accountability.”
Clavin said the town had to inform residents about what happened, because many called after receiving the letter, saying they had been unaware of the mistake. “It’s not finger-pointing,” he said. “It was the county’s error.”
Clavin said that about 36,000 owners of commercial and residential properties were affected by the mistake, 33,000 of whom are in the Town of Hempstead, and that these residents are owed an average refund between $300 and $500. He said that town officials have worked with the county’s assessment office to reconcile the numbers, reprint the bills and mail them to residents, while making sure not to send them to those whose mortgage companies paid the bill, so as not to confuse them.
Mayor Murray, a Rockville Centre resident, said his bill went up by $485. “We’re waiting to see what they actually do,” Murray said of the county. “They have our money.”
County officials said they determined that it was a human error made by Ed Mangano’s administration, but that it was corrected, and that the county has implemented a safeguard to prevent it from happening again.
Mulé, of Freeport, who saw an increase of $158, noted that the revised number on her second-half bill is correct, but the percentage is still not displayed correctly, “and no one has been able to give me that information.”
“You want to assume that your tax bills are correct; it’s kind of a mess,” Mulé said, adding that she plans to put together a fact sheet detailing the situation for fellow legislators. “This current administration is trying to clean it up, but it’s complicated . . . so cleaning it up isn’t as simple as you’d want it to be.”
Though Mulé said refunds will likely not come before October, town officials are trying to expedite the process.
“We are urging the County Legislature to approve the County Executive’s bipartisan bill to refund overcharged homeowners as soon as possible,” Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said in a statement on Monday, “so that the County Treasurer may begin cutting checks.”
Nadya Nataly contributed to this story.