Steven Hirsch of Great Neck wanted to calculate the odds of appealing his new Nassau assessment, which became effective Monday, when he found a glitch:
The sales prices were wrong for all of the homes listed on the county's assessment Web site as comparison houses to his own split-level: They were lower than the actual prices.
"I said, 'Whoa,' " said Hirsch, who went on to find the same problem as he spot-checked other houses.
If the county set assessments based on too-low comparable prices, that means "that people in Nassau got an assessment that is too good to be true. When you try to appeal, you can't," he said.
Hirsh called reporters who, in turn, called the Nassau assessment office. By midday Wednesday, all the thousands of incorrect sales prices were corrected, said Assessor Ted Jankowski.
Most important, Jankowski said, the incorrect values were not used to set the new property values and had no effect on the homeowner's actual assessment. "None whatsoever," he said.
Jankowski said at first that "adjusted values" - sales prices changed to reflect changes in the market - had always been listed as comparison sales. But then he called back to say he rechecked with his staff and found the problem was new and occurred when the assessments were loaded into a new computer system on Monday.
He said his office had been working to correct the glitch before reporters began calling.
Nassau has been updating its assessment roll, using comparable sales to set home values, every January since a 2003 countywide reassessment.
Attorney Fred Perry, who files thousands of tax protests on homeowners' behalf each year, said Jankowski should lengthen the appeal period, which now ends March 1, because of the computer error.
"Ludicrous," responded Jankowski.
Hirsch, meanwhile, is still puzzling over his assessment. "The problem in government is, if you're not transparent, you still don't trust it," he said.