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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Mangano's proposed tax, fee increases draw fire

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano participates in a

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano participates in a debate in Woodbury on Oct. 29, 2013. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Maureen O'Connell, Nassau's clerk, weighed in on County Executive Edward Mangano's budget Friday in a letter to county lawmakers.

"I am writing to advise you of my vehement objection to proposed fee increases . . . that negatively impact land filings in my office," the letter said.

In years past, O'Connell, a former state assemblywoman, has objected to every proposed fee increase impacting her office, which handles mortgages and other such filings.

But this time around, the criticism -- by one Republican of a fellow Republican's proposal, which, in Nassau, is a rarity -- appeared far harsher than O'Connell's usual tone.

In 2010, the letter points out, fees incurred by homeowners selling their mortgaged property and purchasing new mortgaged property totaled $30 for the required three filings.

"If two proposed laws impacting land recordings are passed by this legislature," O'Connell wrote, the cost of the same transaction would rise to $1,575.

"This 5,250 percent escalation of fees during a five-year period is unconscionable," wrote O'Connell, who is not up for re-election this year.

O'Connell's letter, which urged lawmakers to reverse the fee increases, capped a tough week for Mangano's proposed budget.

Republicans and Democrats in the legislature last week came out against the plan's proposed increase in the county portion of the property tax.

And County Comptroller George Maragos, during a legislative hearing, said his analysis has identified $50 million to $180 million in risky revenue and spending assumptions.

On Friday, Mangano defended his proposal, saying he looked forward to seeing how lawmakers planned to replace proposed revenues from the tax increase with other revenues or cuts.

"I'm willing to consider what Republicans and Democrats alike consider, but it would be helpful to have that information ASAP," Mangano said in an interview.

A spokesman for Norma Gonsalves, the legislature's presiding officer, said she wanted to complete budget hearings before coming up with a plan. "It's early in the budgeting process," she said.

In her letter, McConnell labeled as "catastrophic" Mangano's proposal to hike tax map verification fees. And she included an explanation on why she thought this year's proposed increases are particularly bad. "The housing market in Nassau County has been subject to near collapse -- with many areas still recovering from superstorm Sandy damage, zombie houses resulting from slow-moving foreclosure proceedings, and tight financing," O'Connell wrote.

"These factors make selling or purchasing a home extremely difficult as it is . . . Nassau County recording fees are among the highest in the nation . . . clearly, any proposed fee increases would crush the real estate market," she wrote.

Will Republicans come together on a plan? Or could the process end up as combative as it was in 1999 when Republican lawmakers, in a stunning turn weeks before Election Day, ran away from the budget policies of then-County Executive and fellow Republican Thomas Gulotta?

And what of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state monitoring board that controls the county's finances? Would members be willing to take the drastic, and for Nassau, unprecedented step of shuttering public parks to fix the spending plan should negotiations end up going nowhere?

Stay tuned.

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