Editorial: Nassau assessment fix long overdue

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said, in his State of the County speech Tuesday, that he planned to pursue changes in state law that would help the county deal with an assessment mess that presents his biggest budget challenge.

He's right in saying the system needs fixing.

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But this was his fifth State of the County speech, he's done little to fix the system and the fact that he won't have any legislation ready for this year's session of the state legislature is disappointing.

Nassau's broken assessment system is generating about $80 million a year in expense for the county, which is, not coincidentally, about the same as the county's annual deficit. The money goes to refunding overpayments to property owners who win challenges. As expected, the county just lost a futile court battle to overturn its responsibility for paying those refunds.

So what can be done? Albany can pass legislation to create an acceptable margin of error in property values within which an assessment would not trigger a refund. That would help Nassau, and every other municipality as well. Nassau is the last county in the state to do all assessing countywide and turning that over to the towns might also solve some problems, if only by making the systems smaller and thus more manageable with valuations in the hands of more knowledgeable appraisers.

Whether Nassau keeps the job or passes it off, a more accurate system of assigning values must be created. Nassau's assessing was so broken that Mangano froze assessments in 2010 rather than keep trying to accurately value property.

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All of these solutions deserve attention and effort. But five years into the Mangano administration, the fixes should be further along.

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