Democratic incumbent Laura Curran is running for her second four-term as county executive. Her Republican opponent is Town of Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman. The Herald asked the candidates three pertinent questions to get their take on the issues.
Herald: Nassau is one of three counties that pay the highest average property taxes in the state. What is your plan to help reduce the tax burden?
Curran: As the hardworking families of Nassau know, you can’t get far without a balanced budget. Before I took office, decades of wasteful corruption and reckless mismanagement plagued our county. I am proud that through dogged fiscal discipline, my administration has turned budget deficits into surpluses.
Nassau families deserve to know their hard-earned money is being spent responsibly. That’s why I devoted my first term to cleaning up the mess others left behind and bringing real accountability to government:
I delivered four balanced budgets and consecutive budget surpluses; secured Nassau’s first bond upgrade in over a decade; held the line on property taxes and proposed a responsible $70 million tax reduction for 2022, and a $150 million tax reduction over the next four years.
As Nassau continues the economic recovery from Covid, I am also proud to say that we are in a position to give American Rescue Plan dollars back to the taxpayers. Our books are balanced, so I am giving $375 direct cash payments to more than 400,000 households. I have worked hard to earn the trust of Nassau taxpayers, and I will continue to pursue tax relief, like my tax cut, without sacrificing our future fiscal stability.
Blakeman: Laura Curran’s reassessment is crushing families and seniors with higher property taxes. School tax bills are arriving at home this October, and just like last year, property taxes will soar for an overwhelming majority of homeowners because of Curran’s reassessment. While your property taxes are going up, Laura Curran’s taxes went down [decreased by $255].
For the majority of homeowners, Curran’s tax hikes continue for three more years unless you stop her this Election Day. I believe it’s wrong for Laura Curran to increase county property taxes to the highest level ever in Nassau’s history while also generating millions in surplus funds.
As county executive, I will end Curran’s reassessment and cut taxes. Government should never collect more than it needs to operate. My plan cuts property taxes by over $128 million – that’s $58 million more than Laura Curran is willing to give back – and I’ll pay for that tax cut by returning Nassau County’s entire budget surplus to residents.
I will continue to return budget surpluses each year while restricting new spending and reducing debt. It’s time to put government on a serious diet, and it’s time to really cut taxes.
Herald: The residential property assessment system still needs an overhaul. What would you do to make it beneficial for homeowners and the county?
Curran: Nassau’s assessment system has been a mess for decades. Politician after politician kicked this can down the road, choosing what was politically convenient over what was right. I ran on a promise to finally address our broken assessment system, and I did just that.
My administration took on a tough fight and had the political courage to implement a fair and accurate reassessment of the tax roll, which had been frozen for nearly a decade.
The accuracy of my administration’s reassessment has been verified by Newsday, by the state and by independent experts. I have ensured residents have the opportunity to adapt to changes in assessment values by implementing my Taxpayer Protection Plan, which phases in any assessment correction over the next five years. I will also always protect residents’ right to grieve their property assessment.
In my first term, I tackled the fiscal mismanagement that has plagued Nassau for decades, turning chronic deficits into surpluses. I took on reassessment when my predecessors lacked the political courage to do so. As a result, our assessment system is fairer and more accurate today than it has been in years.
Blakeman: Laura Curran placed a huge financial burden on the backs of families and seniors, with an overwhelming majority of homeowners facing soaring school taxes in 2021 as a result of her reassessment.
Errors in Curran’s assessment roll also resulted in multi-millionaires having their property tax bill erased. Mansions received tax bills for zero dollars in property taxes.
While the reassessment was supposed to create equity, it did not. Neighboring homes built by the same developer pay different tax amounts regardless of being exactly the same.
It’s clear that we need to scrap Curran’s reassessment plan entirely and start fresh. As county executive, I will terminate Laura Curran’s reassessment. Her phased-in tax hikes for the next three years will be immediately terminated by my administration.
Instead, I will hire qualified professionals to run the Assessment Department and create a new, fair system while also cutting property taxes by over $120 million.
Herald: The Covid-19 pandemic remains an overarching problem. What would you do to help ensure that residents are healthy life can to return to “normal?”
Curran: I worked around the clock with communities and health officials during the toughest days of the pandemic to keep residents healthy and informed.
I visited small businesses constantly to keep a finger on the pulse of our local economy. I advocated for safe re-openings when it made sense to support our long-term economic health.
We were open and transparent throughout the pandemic, pursuing an approach centered around education, outreach and accessibility. It is this approach that has earned us the ranking of highest vaccinated county in the state and second highest vaccinated among large counties nationally. Our 93.6 percent adult-vaccination-rate has allowed for a robust recovery — but we’re not done.
As we recover, the county is reaching out to small business owners to get $10,000 in individual grants to those that need them. County mobile vaccination teams are visiting businesses directly and providing vaccinations to staff. Paramedics are taking vaccines to the homebound.
We will provide $100 million in American Rescue Plan funds to some 400,000 households as $375 direct cash payments, which will help families buy school supplies, cover utility bills and stimulate our local economy as we continue to come back stronger.
Blakeman: Covid-19 will be around for years to come, and we can never return to the days of a closed economy. We must adapt by fully reopening government to serve the people and welcome those in need of services.
We must continue to offer free testing, vaccines and booster shots to people who want them. Schools must never close again. Big box stores should never be allowed to stay open while small businesses are shuttered. Restaurants should be allowed to keep outdoor dining and continue their indoor operations.
As county executive, I’ll keep my pledge to do these things while also ensuring we have a transparent reporting process related to Covid cases.