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GOP officials ask Curran administration to explain impact of home value reductions

Curran spokeswoman Karen Contino said the 85,000 homes that had property value decreases did not cause other homeowners' property values to increase.

Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin said Tuesday that Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's administration must "come clean" and explain how reductions to the home values of 85,000 properties that were erroneously calculated as part of a massive reassessment process will affect county homeowners. (Credit: Newsday / Yeong-Ung Yang)

GOP elected officials Tuesday called on Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's administration to explain how reductions to the home values of 85,000 properties erroneously calculated as part of the countywide reassessment will affect other county homeowners.

Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Donald Clavin, Legis. Laura Schaefer and Legis. Thomas McKevitt raised those concerns, saying the thousands of errors discovered during a 60-day review process could cause the share of taxes absorbed by Nassau's remaining 315,000 homes to spike.

"The residents of Nassau County need to be stakeholders in this process but they are not," Clavin said at a news conference Tuesday in Hempstead where he called on Curran to host public hearings on the assessment changes. "They are confused. They have questions and the confidence level in the reassessment project has absolutely eroded."

Curran spokeswoman Karen Contino said the 85,000 homes that had property value decreases did not cause other homeowners' property values to increase.

However, she added: “These adjustments, and any other adjustments throughout the entire reassessment process, including the 15-month grievance period, will ultimately influence the tax distribution to some degree."

Curran, a Democrat who took office in January 2018, said last week that more than 85,000 properties on the 2020-21 tentative assessment tax roll were lowered from the preliminary market values listed on assessment disclosure notices mailed to residents starting Nov. 1.

Roughly 65,000 of those reductions were modified because of feedback from property owners while about 20,000 properties were reduced because the properties are vacant.

Most of those changes were made after residents had already received tax impact notices, leading some to question whether other homeowners — many already seeing significant increases on their tax bills — could see yet another hike in the weeks and months ahead.

"The public needs to know exactly where they stand as far as their taxes with the new assessment," said McKevitt (R-East Meadow). "Obviously a number of changes were made. Those tax impact statements were dated going back almost six weeks ago and certainly things have changed."

County officials said the errors have been corrected in the tentative roll — the first to include new values for all 424,000 commercial and residential properties from the countywide reassessment. The new values will first be used in the October 2020 school tax bills.

Adjustments to the roll will be ongoing as homeowners begin to grieve their new assessed values, Contino said.  "More adjustments will occur," she said. "This is part of a normal reassessment process."

The county assessor, Contino noted, is not responsible for tax levies, which are based on municipal budget needs. 

The errors in the tentative roll were just the latest in a series of miscues and stumbles in the reassessment process.

In November, the county said it would have to correct 20,000 tax disclosure notices because they included assessments that increased by more than the 6 percent allowed by state law. Later that month, Nassau had to correct 60,000 more tax-impact notices posted on the county’s website because the assessor had used preliminary, rather than final, values when estimating reassessments' effects on property tax bill. And last month, county officials acknowledged that a wrong date was included on tax impact statements posted online and mailed to residents.

"What the residents of this county need right now is some confidence in the accuracy of the numbers they are being given," said Schaefer (R-Westbury).

Curran's predecessor, Republican Edward Mangano, froze county tax rolls in 2011 while granting thousands of reductions in a program to reduce tax refund costs.

Tentative assessed values for the 2020-21 tax year for every Nassau County property have been finalized and posted online. Property owners will receive a Notice of Tentative Assessed Value by mail before the end of the month.

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