School taxes on Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's Bethpage home grew 24 percent in the past two years, due primarily to the Republican's failure to fix the property tax assessment system, his Democratic challenger in next month's election charged Saturday.
At a news conference in Mineola, Thomas Suozzi blamed Mangano's policies -- including granting reductions to 87 percent of homeowners who challenge their assessments -- for the growth in school tax rates. Mangano's own school tax bill has grown by nearly $2,800 since 2011, according to records provided by Suozzi.
"Ed Mangano increased people's taxes and increased them dramatically," said Suozzi, a two-term county executive who lost to Mangano in 2009.
But Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said school boards were responsible for hiking property taxes. Administration officials said the assessments do not take in revenue but rather redistribute existing tax obligations so all homeowners pay a fair share.
"Tom Suozzi clearly opposes the right of homeowners to fight their taxes, and it's no surprise considering he hiked them by 23 percent," Nevin said. "Ed Mangano froze property taxes his entire term and stands with homeowners in their fight against higher school taxes."
Nassau school tax rates increased this year by an average of 6.8 percent -- more than double what most homeowners expected when they approved their school budgets this spring. Tax rates grew by an average of 11.7 percent last year, records show. Rate increases were due primarily to reduced assessments from dropping home values and successful tax challenges, according to county records.
Baldwin school board member Joe Press, who attended the Suozzi news conference, said the district approved a 3 percent hike this year but homeowners are paying double that amount.
"The tax rate is out of our control," Press said. "We are at the mercy of Nassau County."
Shortly after taking office, Mangano froze tax rolls at their 2010 levels, with re-evaluations to be conducted every four years. Mangano, like Suozzi when he was county executive, has encouraged residents to appeal property tax assessments. When a home's assessment decreases, neighbors pay more in taxes if they don't challenge their assessments or if their property value remains the same or increases because they must make up the difference.
Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) said the freeze has hurt South Shore residents whose homes lost value after superstorm Sandy. "Unless you challenged your assessment, your taxes went up," said Denenberg, a Suozzi supporter.
Acting Assessor James Davis, a Mangano appointee, has said reduced state aid, demolitions and property tax exemptions also affect the school tax rate.
Mangano and Suozzi, who will square off in the Nov. 5 general election, also marched Saturday in Long Beach's Irish Heritage Day Parade and Festival. Mangano said the event showed the spirit of Long Beach, which was devastated by Sandy.
"There's still a lot of work to be done but many Long Beach residents are back in their homes," Mangano said.