County Executive Edward Mangano Monday appointed the former Smithtown assessor to head a review of Nassau's problem-plagued assessment system as the county comptroller announced plans for a "forensic" audit of the current assessment roll.
Gregory Hild, who was honored this year by the New York State Assessors' Association, will lead a team of county employees to root out the problems in the way Nassau values homes and businesses for property taxes. He will also recommend candidates to Mangano to be named the county's next full-time assessor.
Mangano on Friday fired Assessor Ted Jankowski after town tax receivers complained the county assessment roll used to generate Oct. 1 school tax bills was so flawed that some bills went out late while the county itself got a $1.3-million school tax bill even though its buildings are tax-exempt.
In addition, many homeowners are complaining about inexplicable swings in their school tax bills, including hikes as high as 33 percent despite only modest increases in their district's property tax levies.
"I am committed to restoring the public's faith in our assessment system while protecting homeowners and employers from an unfair and broken system," Mangano said at a news conference in the historic courthouse that had been erroneously put on the tax roll at a market value of $56 million. The county must pay the bill to the Garden City school district because of the error.
"We know we have a huge undertaking in front of us," said Hild, who retired this year after more than 25 years as Smithtown's assessor. "We are going to look under all the rocks and into all the crevices."
Hild will be paid by contract $5,000 a month, for as many as six months, officials said.
The assessment roll in dispute was assembled in 2008 and certified this April. Mistakes can be corrected until the tax bills are generated. Internal e-mails obtained by Newsday indicates that Jankowski was warned as early as August by staff that school tax bills would be late if mistakes in the roll weren't corrected promptly. Those mistakes involved computer coding that put some utility properties in the wrong towns and the wrong tax rates on some parcels.
Mangano said Jankowski, who was hired by former County Executive Thomas Suozzi in January 2009, never notified him of the problems. Mangano said he expected Hild to ensure there are no similar problems with the general tax bills that go out Jan. 2.
"Putting out a late roll is unacceptable," Mangano said.
Minority Leader Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove) was skeptical. "If this assessment transition team is as ineffective as his ART team," she said, referring to an assessment review team appointed in January, "Mr. Mangano may be in real trouble. It has yet to issue its initial report, which was due June 30."
Some reported problems in Nassau's school assessment roll
Numbers didn't balance. For example, the numbers from each school district and property classification didn't add up to the total tax warrant for that school district.
Taxing the exempt
Tax exemptions were incorrectly dropped from some properties, generating erroneous tax bills, such as the $1.3-million bill received by Nassau on its own historic courthouse.
Tax exemptions were incorrectly placed on some parcels, erroneously lowering the taxes for those properties.
Not adding up
Inexplicable swings in school tax bills for some homeowners, whose school taxes increased by double-digit percentages despite modest increases in their district's tax levies.