Suozzi urges Mangano to drop tax refund court fight

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Nassau County executive candidate Thomas Suozzi on Thursday called on County Executive Edward Mangano to not fight a unanimous appellate court ruling rejecting the county's attempt to shift the cost of property tax refunds to towns, villages and school districts.

Suozzi, a Democrat, said Mangano's "irresponsible" decision to repeal the "county guarantee" led to a backlog of more than $300 million in unpaid tax challenges. He urged Mangano not to appeal the decision, which could cost the county $80 million per year, and to develop a long-term plan to overhaul the property tax system.

"Mangano claimed he was not going to raise property taxes," Suozzi said at a news conference at his Uniondale law office. "But he is raising taxes because he wants to force these expenses onto the school districts, towns and villages. It is completely irresponsible. It lacks vision and does not look out for future generations."

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said Suozzi and legislative Democrats caused the property tax problem. Suozzi served as county executive from 2001 until his defeat by Mangano, a Republican, in 2009.

"Tom Suozzi must have bumped his head as he created the problem, left behind $1.6 billion in debt and his fellow Democrats refuse to follow the county and [Nassau Interim Finance Authority] plan to pay residents their rightful property tax refunds," Nevin said.

Mangano has proposed borrowing to pay the tax refunds but has been blocked repeatedly by legislative Democrats who say they won't vote for the borrowing without fair legislative redistricting.

Nassau plans to appeal Wednesday's decision to the State Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, Nevin said.

Suozzi said that by the time he left office, he had reduced the tax refund backlog to $100 million.

Roslyn businessman Adam Haber, also a candidate for the Democratic nomination for county executive, said Suozzi and Mangano bear equal responsibility.

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"Whether it's the Suozzi administration or the Mangano administration the situation is the same: Political insiders offering up shortsighted approaches that fail to address serious problems," Haber said.

Suozzi contends that Mangano's plan would have forced local school districts to hike taxes beyond the state's 2 percent cap on tax levy increases.

Suozzi said he would consider providing tax credits for residents who are owed refunds in an effort to cut the backlog.

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