January 7, 2010, Mineola: Left to right: Nassau County Executive...

January 7, 2010, Mineola: Left to right: Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Patrick Foye who he named as the Assessment Review Team or ART executive director, talk about the new plan he has to reform and repair the property tax assessment system in Nassau County. Newsday Photo / Karen Wiles Stabile Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said yesterday he preferred a four-year freeze on property values as he works to correct the county's troubled system for assessing homes and businesses.

He also suggested he might offer tax amnesty to owners of business properties, and said his Assessment Review Team would report to him by June 30.

"I've outlined a four-year freeze," on assessed values, Mangano said. "However, the team, through due diligence, may suggest that it be accomplished in two or three. But in any case it will never, it will not be, any longer than five years. Five years would be the maximum." The county now does reassessments every year.

He said much of his planwould be guided by the findings of the team, which will be headed by Patrick Foye, a lawyer and former state economic development official. Other members, who will total fewer than a dozen, have yet to be appointed.

Foye, at the news conference, said that about 80 percent of the dollar value of tax refunds go to businesses, so an amnesty or other incentive would be for them. It would be "a limited-time offer, just as you see on late-night TV: Call now or before midnight; you get a set of knives for $29.95," he said.

Long Island Association president Matthew Crosson praised the selection of Foye. But "as to the outcome," for the proposed review, he added, "that remains to be seen."

Mangano, in his fourth business day as the county executive, said at the news conference in the county government building in Mineola that he was taking the first steps toward fulfilling his campaign promise to reform the assessment system.

He said he intends to freeze the 2010 tax rolls issued last week. When individual assessments are corrected, Mangano believes the county will be able to reduce the $1.13 billion in outstanding bonds it has issued to refund overcharge claims on its own property-tax bills, and also the refunds it must pay on behalf of school districts, villages and other taxing jurisdictions within the county.

Mangano said he would not try to change the refund system, as others have suggested, to make schools and other taxing districts responsible for their own refunds.

Charts on either side of the new county executive showed that $47 of every $100 of the county's $309 million annual debt service bill goes toward paying for past property tax refunds financed with long-term bonds.

The county shells out about $100 million in new refunds every year, so the debt continues to grow. Of $117 million refunded last year, $50 million came from operating funds and $67 million from bonds, a chart showed.

"If we do not address and repair the property assessment system as soon as possible, Nassau's finances will continue to worsen," Mangano said. "That scenario is not acceptable."

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