TODAY'S PAPER
60° Good Morning
60° Good Morning
Long IslandInvestigations

8 questions about Nassau's reassessment answered

Are Nassau's controversial new assessments more fair and accurate? Our analysis of 10,000 home sales says yes.

Nassau County Assessor David Moog with County Executive

Nassau County Assessor David Moog with County Executive Laura Curran on Sept. 26, 2018, in Mineola. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Here are eight questions and answers you may have about Nassau's reassessment:

Is Nassau County increasing taxes with this reassessment?

No, but about half of homeowners will see their taxes go down while the other half see them go up, often by thousands of dollars over as many as five years. The reassessment project will redistribute the way $6 billion in county, town, school and other government taxes are shared proportional to what properties are worth under the new valuations.

It has been nearly a decade since the county’s last reassessment, a long gap that created widespread inaccuracies in value and a system that fell outside professional standards of fairness and accuracy. The reassessment does not affect how much the governments decide to collect in taxes. But it will change the way the tax money they seek is apportioned.

My county-estimated market value went up a lot. Does that mean my taxes will go up?

Not necessarily. Nearly all of the county’s estimated market values went up because of the reassessment, but some rose a lot more than others. As a result, the county estimates about half of homeowners will see tax bill increases while others will see decreases.

County officials mailed tax impact notices containing estimates of the reassessment’s impact on each property’s tax bill. The notices are also available on the county’s website.

Does the accuracy of Nassau's new assessments mean that there will no longer be successful assessment challenges?

No. New York’s assessment grievance law holds assessors to an impossible-to-attain standard of 100 percent accuracy. As a result, no matter how accurate Nassau’s assessments get, there will always be many successful challenges. For instance, Newsday found the county’s new assessments are still off by plus or minus 8.8 percent, on average.

During the administration of former County Executive Thomas Suozzi in the 2000s assessments in many years were slightly more accurate than Nassau’s new ones, according to studies conducted by Newsday and county and state officials. But during that time, about a third of challengers were successful.

How could Laura Curran’s administration complete such a major project so soon after she became county executive?

The reassessment began in October 2015 during the administration of former County Executive Edward Mangano after years of delays he attributed in part to superstorm Sandy damage. After the county’s residential assessments contractor reported first results with an error rate of 10.9 percent shortly before Curran took office, she won the county legislature’s approval to expand the work and finish the project, resulting in an error rate, according to Newsday’s analysis of 8.8 percent.

Given the mistakes we’ve been hearing about, how can the new assessments be accurate?

County officials have made numerous missteps during the reassessment process that Curran’s Republican opponents have seized on, including:

  • Switching reassessment phase-in plans a few months before the new assessments were to be released, after administration officials learned their initial proposal would have done little to make the system better.
  • Failing to cap assessment increases at 6 percent as required under state law in initial notices of “preliminary tentative” assessments. That required 20,000 notices to be resent.
  • Listing incorrect older market value numbers that were provided for comparison to the new values on 60,000 tax impact notices. Those values appeared online for eight days before they were fixed and marked “amended” without explanation.
  • Stating in tax impact notices mailed to homeowners that the new assessment roll would become final in April 2021, when the correct date is April 2020.
  • Uploading to the county website on the date the new roll was to be released an older, working version of the assessment roll with 18,000 draft values that differed from the final numbers. They were left there for several hours before being replaced with the correct ones.

However, none of the county’s missteps in themselves led to any errors in the computation of the new assessments. In fact, some of the corrections the administration has been criticized for were expected modifications made during the final phase of the reassessment.

But didn’t Nassau make 85,000 errors on its new assessments?

No. It made changes to draft, “preliminary tentative” assessments released in November 2018 during the final phase of the reassessment. It was expected that modifications would be made as additional data became available before the county released its new assessment roll in January.

The county made the often minor adjustments after meeting in person or by telephone with 14,000 property owners and reviewing additional, more recent data, County Assessor David Moog said. In the county’s last major reassessment in 2003, even more adjustments were made — 150,000.

Didn’t the county inaccurately estimate how the reassessment would affect taxes in notices it sent out?

No, but it made mistakes that didn’t help its credibility. No errors have been reported in the estimates the county sent out late last year on how tax bills would be affected by the reassessment.

But the notices still contained an error. It was in historical information provided to property owners to help evaluate their new preliminary tax bill estimates and assessments. For one of those historical numbers — the market value — the county failed to account for 60,000 assessment challenge reductions awarded in the previous tax year. Officials replaced the notices, which appeared online, in eight days with new ones marked “amended” and containing the correct value. But it didn’t announce or explain this until Newsday reported on the move three days later.

Did the reassessment double count the impact a property's neighborhood has on its value?

It was only counted once. Confusion has come from the county's widely used method of valuing property.

That statistical modeling approach, another improvement on past methods, uses dozens of home sales from a wide area to more accurately measure how much each component of a home adds to its value.

Among the property characteristics the model values are things like square footage, number of bedrooms, decks, pools and proximity to railroad tracks. The region the sales are drawn from  affects the value of those components, but does not fully account for the effect a home’s specific location may have on its worth. For that, the model includes two additional components capturing the value added by the property’s neighborhood and block.

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Latest Long Island News