Nassau could save up to $80 million a year if the county’s three towns took over responsibility for property tax assessments, Republican county executive candidate Jack Martins said Tuesday.
In an interview, Martins said if elected he would lobby Albany to allow Nassau’s three towns to assess homes and businesses — as is done in Suffolk County and all but one other county in the state except New York City. He said Nassau would save enough money by eliminating all property tax refund payments to end a financial control period imposed in 2011 by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.
“Residents need confidence in their assessment system and that they are paying their fair share,” said Martins, a former state senator from Old Westbury. “And the best practices across the state is to do assessments on a smaller towns-based system.”
But Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino, a Republican, said Nassau “should fix its broken assessment system rather than trying to shift their problem, as well as the associated costs, onto other levels of government.”
Martins said he would use the savings from reduced property tax refunds to temporarily provide towns with the staff and resources necessary to set up new assessment systems.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, floated a similar plan in 2013. But the idea failed to gain support in Albany or with towns and cities, which would have had to pay the cost of their own refunds and managing new assessment departments.
Long Beach and Glen Cove have assessors, but the cities levy only a portion of their residents’ taxes.
Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), a Democratic candidate for county executive, called Martins’ plan a “gimmick” that would create new problems with poorly staffed assessment departments in the three towns. Curran supports beefing up the staff of Nassau’s Assessment Department.
County Comptroller George Maragos, who faces Curran in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, said Martins is offering an “old idea that has been rejected many times previously.” Maragos wants the county to make annual reassessments at market values.
Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino, a Republican, “welcomes any opportunity to save taxpayers money and achieve a more accurate assessment roll for homeowners,” said town spokesman Brian Nevin.
A spokeswoman for Judi Bosworth, the Democratic supervisor of North Hempstead Town, did not respond to a request for comment.
A NIFA spokesman could not be reached immediately for comment.