After nearly five hours of court arguments, the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County have reached a tentative settlement over last-minute changes by the county to its assessment roll.
Officials on both sides said the town will accept the assessment data it had received later than usual from the county. But the court will push back the deadline for Hempstead Town residents to pay their first half of the general tax bill without penalty from Feb. 10 to March 1.
The proposed settlement is to be brought back to state Supreme Court Justice George Peck on Tuesday for approval, officials said.
“I am delighted that a tentative settlement of Hempstead Town’s court action against Nassau County will result in taxpayers gaining over two additional weeks’ time to pay their property taxes,” said Anthony Santino, who replaces Kate Murray as town supervisor Friday. “It just wasn’t fair to put taxpayers under a time crunch as a result of Nassau’s delay in producing a tax roll.”
County Attorney Carnell Foskey said Nassau also got what it wanted in the proposed settlement. “The Town of Hempstead agreed to accept the tax warrant as it was passed by the [county] legislature,” he said.
Hempstead filed suit after the county removed from the tax roll hundreds of properties owned by the Long Island Power Authority and operated by PSEG-Long Island.
Nassau made the adjustments after LIPA argued that state law required its properties to be removed from the roll, with the utility instead making “payments in lieu of taxes,” or pilots. The company also said any increases in the pilot payments had to be capped at 2 percent.
The county assessor’s office said it had completed the changes to the assessment roll on Dec. 20. The county legislature approved the amended roll as an emergency the next day. But town tax receivers did not get the adjusted assessment and tax levy information needed to generate the bills until the afternoon of Dec. 29. The tax receivers usually send the bills for Nassau’s county, town and special taxing districts’ property taxes the first week in January.
Hempstead argued that removing the LIPA properties changed the town’s tax rates after the legal deadline for Hempstead to change its budget for the year. The town also noted that it knew of no approved pilots in place to make up for the removal of the LIPA properties, which the town’s lawsuit said had been on the tax rolls for nearly 35 years.
The town is represented in court by the outside law firm of Berkman, Henoch, Peterson, Peddy & Fenschel, where Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello is of counsel. The county was represented by outside attorney William Savino of the Rifkin Radler law firm, where County Executive Edward Mangano worked before being elected to his post.