Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano appears at a news conference...

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano appears at a news conference after the meeting with Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino to discuss regional and statewide issues that affect each county. (May 5, 2010) Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

Nassau's Assessment Review Team, whose members slammed County Executive Edward Mangano last month for proposing reforms without consulting them, has negotiated a compromise with him that would eliminate a $5,000 fine for commercial property owners who do not submit a costly certified appraisal or bona fide offer when they protest their taxes.

In return, the county would gain the authority to dismiss property tax challenges if business owners do not provide financial data justifying their requests for large assessment reductions, according to broad outlines of the plan disclosed Thursday by Mangano and the chairman of the volunteer advisory board, Mark Hamer.

The agreement is intended to speed settlement of protests before property owners overpay their taxes due to incorrect assessments. Mangano said Nassau would save millions of dollars a year by reducing the amount of refunds it has to pay. Currently, Nassau taxpayers have to shoulder the bill for $100 million a year in tax refunds - more than 80 percent due to commercial challenges.

Both Mangano and Hamer said the details are still being worked out but expected the compromise to be ready for a special meeting of the county legislature Tuesday.

"We have a meeting of minds in respect to amendments to the legislation that will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually," Mangano said. "It's a good start. We have more work to do and we plan to do it to reform the real property tax assessment system."

Mangano first proposed that business owners be fined $5,000 if they did not submit appraisals or bona fide offers when protesting their taxes. Members of ART, appointed by Mangano in January to recommend reforms, complained that the law would hurt mom-and-pop business owners who could not afford the fine or the approximately $5,000 cost of an appraisal.

The compromise was reached after weeks of negotiation between ART and the administration. "Do I think it's a perfect bill? No," Hamer said. "I think it's a step in the right direction to protect the small business owner."

By Tuesday, the administration is expected to amend Mangano's original legislation to give business owners more options: If they ask for an assessment reduction of 12.5 percent or less, their offer will be considered bona fide and they won't need to submit a certified appraisal or other supporting documentation. If they are seeking a larger reduction, they must submit supporting financial information or the county will dismiss their protest.

In all cases, the commercial property owner's requested reduction would be automatically granted if the county does not act within a certain time period - roughly five months.

Although Nassau already requires businesses to submit expense statements, county officials do not believe they now have the authority to dismiss protests if the information is not provided. Mangano said if business owners challenge the county's right to dismiss and a judge voids that section of the new law, the county will impose a $4,000 fine in cases where required financial data is not provided.

Representatives for county legislative leaders declined to comment on the proposed agreement, saying they hadn't seen it. With Ellen Yan

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