Democratic Nassau county executive candidate Thomas Suozzi unveiled his plan Saturday to reform the county's assessment system, including providing tax credits to property owners who are owed refunds on their taxes.
Suozzi, who will challenge Republican County Executive Edward Mangano in the Nov. 5 election, said his plan would save taxpayers millions by reducing Nassau's need to borrow to pay for refunds.
"This will have a dramatically positive impact on residential homeowners and it will create much more equity in the system going forward," Suozzi said at a Mineola news conference.
Suozzi would give homeowners who successfully grieve their taxes a credit of that amount on the following year's tax bill. The plan also requires that the money lost to refunds be made up only by property owners within a particular taxing category.
For example, business owners, who are responsible for 85 percent of all refunds, would now be responsible for making up for the money lost because of commercial tax refunds. Currently, Suozzi, said, homeowners pay 76 percent of the cost of making up for commercial tax refunds.
But Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin dismissed the plan, noting that it "forces people to overpay their taxes, fight for a refund and costs all residents more money in interest."
After taking office in 2009, Mangano froze assessments for four years and encouraged residents to settle grievances before paying their taxes.
But a Newsday review found that 84 percent of homeowners who filed challenges won reductions last year. When a home's assessment declines, neighbors whose assessments remain the same or increase pay higher taxes.
Newsday reported last week that school tax rates were up an average 6.8 percent -- more than twice what homeowners expected when they voted for their budgets this spring.
School officials blamed the increase on successful assessment protests and a shift in tax burden from commercial properties to single-family homeowners in many districts. But Acting Assessor James Davis, a Mangano appointee, has said reduced state aid, demolitions and property tax exemptions also affect the school tax rate.
"Ed Mangano is a fiscal phony," said Suozzi, who was county executive from 2002 though 2009. "He's been talking throughout the campaign about how he froze or cut taxes, neither of which is true."
If elected, Suozzi said he would re-evaluate the assessment freeze to take into account fluctuations in the real estate market; devote more resources to commercial reassessments and end Mangano's plan to shift the cost of property tax refunds onto school districts and towns.
Also Saturday, Mangano visited a food collection drive in Massapequa and spoke to a group of more than 200 GOP committeemen and volunteers in Franklin Square who spent the afternoon distributing his campaign literature.
"Your work today will help ensure four more years of the fiscal and economic policies that are working here in Nassau," Mangano said.