Tax hike if no Coliseum deal, report warns

The Nassau Coliseum. (July 15, 2011) The Nassau Coliseum. (July 15, 2011) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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Nassau County homeowners could see their taxes increase by $16 per year per household if the New York Islanders leave and Nassau Coliseum closes, a new report by the county's economic consultants found.

But if a new arena is built and revenue-sharing projections pan out, taxpayers would see an average annual tax savings of $26.81, stated the report by Camoin Associates of upstate Malta. Those savings would affect the tax bill only if all the revenue-sharing is used to directly offset homeowners' property taxes.

The estimate is one of several to measure taxpayer impact.

A report by Nassau's Office of Legislative Budget Review said the average homeowner could pay as little as $13.80 per year more, if Nassau funnels all of its portion of a revenue-sharing deal with the team into reducing the general fund property tax levy. If the county doesn't, the office said, property taxes for the average homeowner could rise by $51.50 per year.

The Camoin report is based on its projections that indicate the county could lose nearly $8 million in tax revenue per year if the Islanders leave, but receive a $400-million profit over 30 years if the Coliseum is built.

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"Even in a worst-case scenario, the closure of Nassau Coliseum would be more costly to homeowners than the construction of a new arena, not to mention the added impact of job losses and decreased quality of life," County Executive Edward Mangano said in a statement.

Nassau residents will vote Aug. 1 on whether to authorize the county to borrow up to $400 million for a new arena and minor-league ballpark.

The lease between the county and Islanders owner Charles Wang provides the county with 11.5 percent of arena revenue, except for television rights, with a minimum payment of $14 million a year. "The effect of a shuttered arena is significant on the negative side, while building a new arena and jump-starting the economy yields substantial benefits to the residents," said team senior vice president Michael Picker.

But Nesconset economist Thomas Conoscenti said the figures were based on projections provided by the Islanders and there was no independent validation of the numbers. Conoscenti studied the deal for the Association for a Better Long Island, which opposes the deal.

Camoin officials have said their figures are more conservative than the Islanders'. But some suggest Camoin's projections were overly ambitious, given the team's performance and attendance history, competition from other arenas and the region's economy. Camoin based its findings on annual attendance of nearly 1.4 million. That's 33.2 percent more than the arena's historical average, the budget review office said, arguing that a 13.6 percent gain was more realistic.

But Picker said the team will have four seasons to improve before the new arena is built.

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