From the Desk of Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton
For eight years under County Executive Ed Mangano’s leadership, the entire tax assessment system was completely neglected. The entire roll was frozen to purportedly overhaul the system, but the Mangano Administration did nothing to fix it. The County didn’t even have an Assessor.
County Executive Laura Curran has attempted to make the assessment roll more accurate by ordering the assessed values be unfrozen. I completely agree that the assessment process must be fixed, which is why I voted to approve and fund contracts to hire outside experts to redo the roll and conduct a reassessment. I also voted to confirm the appointment of a qualified permanent County assessor. Unfreezing the assessment roll and updating property values is a necessary step in establishing a fair and orderly property tax system in the County.
However, I do not support the executive order issued by the County Executive in September that changes what is known as the County’s level of assessment (LOA) for the unfrozen roll to .01% of market value. Although the issue is technically complex, the bottom line is that changing the LOA will cause market value increases— some more than twice the current valuation—and they would take effect immediately. Homeowners who have been diligent in exercising their legal right to challenge their assessments in the past will likely be the hardest hit. This is simply unacceptable to me.
I agree that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes regardless of whether or not they grieved over the years. But, I think it is irresponsible for the government to implement dramatic assessment increases in one fell swoop.
Trying to rebalance the assessment system in a single year will impose huge financial burdens on a significant number of homeowners who simply cannot afford to absorb steep tax increases all at once. Adding this to the Trump Administration imposing $10,000 limits on property tax deductions could be devastating for some families.
Homeowners recently received notices of their homes’ fair market values, but the more important figure for us all to know is how the new values will affect property taxes. I wholeheartedly support correcting the assessment system. My repudiation comes from the fact that we don’t yet know how the reassessments will translate to actual dollar increases in taxes and how individual households will be impacted. This is why I advised the County Executive to consider slowing down the process until the ramifications to homeowners have been determined.
When I met with County Assessor Moog, he told me the changes were a bell curve in that about 30% of homeowners will see an assessment decrease, about 50% will see very minimal change, if any, but the remaining approximately 30% could see an increase in taxes. One-third of this 30% would see less than a 10% increase, but two-thirds of that remaining number could see an increase of over 10%. These numbers are still speculative and I have not yet seen a written impact statement for my district. Nevertheless, the projections are a cause for deep concern.
A related issue is the fact that Nassau County spends between $50 and $100 million a year on property tax refunds. This is a huge burden on our budget, which translates to a huge burden on taxpayers. Correcting this problem should also be addressed as part of the tax assessment system overhaul.
I am certain that new tax assessment roll should be much more accurate than the frozen roll under the Mangano Administration, but there are still some errors. Where I differ with the Curran Administration is that, although some mistakes are understood, I strongly believe that we need to thoroughly review the new roll and address any and all concerns before it is completely implemented.
The County Executive is putting her faith in the idea that the State will come in and save us by spreading out any tax increases over a possible five-year period. I have asked the administration to make these changes in assessment in a slower and, in my opinion, more responsible way. Let’s start with a new roll and wait until after legislation is in place, errors are addressed and our residents are given time to prepare for any changes.