County reassessment is a taxing situation


Sea Cliff Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy described a Dec. 5 Nassau County hearing on property-tax reassessment as “a mob scene.” Hundreds of residents crowded the halls of the Theodore Roosevelt Legislative Building in Mineola to air grievances about the reassessment, which, according to county data, will result in increases for 52 percent of homeowners and reductions for the remaining 48 percent.

For the first time since 2011, the county is reassessing all properties, after former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano froze the tax rolls at that year’s levels.

Despite the reassessment, County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton said, “This is still a roll with many faults. They’re taking a roll that has errors and just manipulating the numbers. It should be a personalized, accurate, house-by-house roll, and it’s just not.”

Last Friday, Nassau County Assessor David Moog announced that he was adjusting the values of more than 40,000 residential properties to correct assessment errors.

County Executive Laura Curran “and the county assessor [should] recognize that people are angry, and that something’s wrong,” Kennedy said. “How many different people stood up and said that their assessments were grossly inaccurate?”

If the reassessment were to take place in full immediately, Kennedy would pay roughly $2,000 more in taxes in 2020-21, an increase of 20 percent. If it were phased in over five years, he would pay around $700 more in 2020-21, an increase of 6 percent.

In the previous assessment year, the fair market value on Kennedy’s house was $477,300. Under the tentative reassessment, that value is $951,000. His one-family residence occupies .124 acres of land. Kennedy has never grieved his taxes.

Questioning the county’s assessment, Kennedy crunched the numbers again and, he said, he discovered a questionable number on the county’s calculation ladder: the neighborhood factor.

“I had asked the county assessor for an explanation of what this neighborhood factor is, and he refuses to answer the question,” Kennedy said, “What I found is that this neighborhood factor is what makes these houses jump in price, either up or down.”

Glen Head real estate broker Steve Warshaw said he believes the calculations ascribed by the neighborhood factor are “magic math.” “There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” he said. “The assessor doesn’t know the conditions [of the properties]; all he can do is talk about the location and the comparison. He doesn’t take inventory into account.” Inventory refers to the number of homes for sale on the market in a particular area.

Warshaw explained that in real estate, five factors determine the price of a house: comparisons of the recent sales prices, condition, location, inventory, and the motivation of the buyer and the seller. He questioned the assessor’s numbers. “I don’t believe that they’re correct to begin with,” he said. “The assessment system would fix itself over time if you reassessed houses on the point of sale.”

He added that the reassessment would affect a buyer’s desire to live in Nassau County, as well as a seller’s decision to go to market. “New homeowners coming in to Long Island are very nervous — they have a preconceived notion of the taxes,” Warshaw said. “When you throw this nightmare on top of it, it makes everything more confusing and stressful.”

Legislator Josh Lafazan, an independent from Woodbury, said he recognized that the current plan could potentially drive residents out of the county, particularly the residents he represents.

“This reassessment disproportionally impacts District 18,” Lafazan said. “A high percentage of my constituents are receiving significant tax increases. Many will be hurt by the loss of SALT deductions, and thousands of constituents in Glen Head are dealing with astronomical water rates from [New York American Water]. What does this say about the prospects of them staying on Long Island?” SALT refers to the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes that will be lost next year under President Trump’s tax-reform package.

Lafazan acknowledged that Curran did not cause the assessment mess, but said he believed a better plan is needed. “I caution the county executive that the proposed remedy cannot be worse than the original problem,” he said.

Curran has touted pending legislation in Albany that could spread tax increases over five years, but Lafazan said, “For the 48 percent who are owed a reduction under the current phase-in plan, that reduction will be delayed and eaten in to.”

The tentative roll will be released on Jan. 2. Both legislators will sponsor tax grievance seminars next year. “How to Challenge Your Assessment” will be held at the Glen Cove Senior Center on Wednesday, Jan. 30, from 2 to 4 p.m.