It’s a vital component of the property tax system, yet for the third straight year, Nassau County won’t be conducting a tax assessment of homes and businesses.
Such a freeze first gained momentum under former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, but was lifted by his successor, Laura Curran. However, the freeze was re-implemented during Covid-19, and now continues under Bruce Blakeman’s tenure.
The difference — at least according to the County Legislature’s Democratic minority — is that Blakeman campaigned against Curran, promising to roll back the tax increases caused by the reassessments done under her administration. Yet they still remain frozen.
“As housing prices soared at an unprecedented rate during the worst of the pandemic, the minority supported a temporary freeze to protect property owners from dramatic swings in a remarkably turbulent market,” minority spokesman Daniel Schrafel said. “However, ‘temporary’ is key. History has demonstrated that freezing the tax rolls for extended periods distorts assessed values to such a degree that the only way for property owners to protect themselves from overpaying is to grieve. We must do everything in our power to break this unjust, exploitative cycle.”
The reassessments are supposed to happen annually, to review property value and tax property owners accordingly. When they don’t happen, properties that have risen in value become under-taxed, while those that may have dropped end up paying a higher tax than they would have otherwise.
The value of property impacts school taxes and other issues.
When in office, Curran called the reassessment process “corrupt” and “broken.” The Democrat pledged to fix it in a 2018 opinion piece published in the Herald, only to freeze it once again during the pandemic.
Democrats now criticizes Blakeman for the continuing the freeze despite the economic pressures of the pandemic subsiding, particularly in light of Blakeman’s promise to do so.
“Mr. Blakeman vowed to rescind the county’s increases that he blamed on the recent assessment,” Democratic county legislator Debra Mulé said. “That basically means that if you’re over-assessed, you’ll be stuck paying more than your fair share of taxes this year, unless you successfully grieve your assessment.”
State Sen. Kevin Thomas joined in the chorus against the freeze to highlight that grievance process.
“Every homeowner in Nassau has received solicitations from tax grievance workers, myself included,” Thomas said. “These grievance workers use deceitful tactics that lead many to believe filing a grievance is just too complicated for the average resident.
“That is not the case — homeowners can file grievances themselves. You are not required to use an attorney or a specialist, nor is there a fee to file. You can even file online from today until March 1 by yourself. It should be as simple as that.”
Thomas introduced a bill in Albany intending to bring more trust and transparency to the tax grievance process.
For his part, Blakeman has denied walking back any campaign promise, explaining that the current freeze is part of the process of “fixing” the system.
“We have now seen as a result of the comptroller’s report that there was improper tampering by the previous administration of valuations that were not supported by their own professional consultants,” Blakeman said. “Because of this problem and the phase-in — which does not expire until next year — it would be an unreasonable burden on the taxpayers to make massive changes without the time and effort required to methodically and accurately fix the tax rolls.”