Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano on Friday extended the deadline for accepting property tax assessment appeals, a day after Newsday reported that the county’s assessment system has created stark differences in the tax bills of those who file grievances and those who do not.
Mangano said the assessment department will accept appeals until March 10 rather than March 1.
“In an effort to allow taxpayers an opportunity to make sure that the assessed value placed on their home or business is accurate, I directed assessment officials to permit a grace period,” Mangano said in a statement.
He also plugged an instructional video on the county’s website meant to guide property owners in filing their own grievances. The challenge process that has proved lucrative for a small group of assessment challenge firms.
Newsday’s report, first published online Thursday, found that the 61 percent of the county’s residential and commercial property owners who appealed their assessments over the last seven years have seen an average increase to their tax bills of about 5 percent, or $466.
The other 39 percent who haven’t appealed have seen their typical tax bill increase seven times as much — by $2,748, or 35.7 percent.
The story’s analyses detailed a shift under the tax overhaul Mangano began seven years ago of at least $1.7 billion in taxes from those who successfully appealed their assessments to those who haven’t. Just 10 percent of the victorious properties — those worth $1 million or more before their reassessments — garnered nearly half the benefit.
Mangano, a Republican, adopted sweeping assessment reforms shortly after taking office in 2010. In an effort to save money on the amount of tax refunds being paid, the county settled more cases than ever, often awarding deeply discounted reductions to the properties filing the most appeals. Historically, more affluent property owners file appeals with the greatest frequency.
After Newsday’s report, Mangano took to a local open government group on Facebook to argue that the only true way to reform the assessment system is through changes to state law that would allow the county to no longer refund tax dollars on behalf of all local governments, including schools, which account for the largest portion of tax bills.
“This means schools and local governments are off the hook, keeping every dollar they originally collected and the county is on the hook for money it never received,” Mangano wrote. “The circle of tax grievances and, either settlements or refunds, will continue absent a change in state law.”
Richard Schurin, an attorney who lives in Island Park, argued that Mangano was deflecting blame for his policies, including expediting settlements in a way that has encouraged more grievances from the property owners who most often have the means to know about the system.
“I find it hard to believe, that in this day in age, a homeowner is charged with the responsibility of fixing their own assessment,” said Schurin, who began filing grievances in the last two years. “It’s the job of the government to assess properties correctly.”
Still, County Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) lauded Mangano for extending the grievance filing deadline, saying “this is an important decision for homeowners to make, and the extra time to gather and review all information is much appreciated.”
Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said: “While it’s a good idea to offer Nassau residents another 10 days to grieve their taxes, it doesn’t change the fact that on March 11 there will still be tens of thousands of overtaxed residents paying for Mangano’s broken assessment system.”
Candidates running for county executive this fall also weighed in.
County Comptroller George Maragos, a Republican-turned-Democrat, noted that he issued a report in 2011 that highlighted the same issues detailed in the Newsday story. That report found that assessment practices instituted by Mangano may have shifted the tax burden “from both top- and bottom-tier properties to middle-tier properties.”
“Warned in 2011. As [county executive], will reverse injustice/lower property taxes,” Maragos tweeted, including the hashtag #GrandTheft.
County Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), also a candidate for county executive, criticized the current administration for keeping the assessment office “perpetually understaffed while masking their inability to handle the problem by encouraging grievances.”
“It’s unacceptable that 39 percent of the county is paying a mismanagement tax because the county executive refuses to address one of the county’s most basic problems,” Curran said.
With Celeste Hadrick