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Nassau lawmakers approve fines for not reporting commercial income

The GOP-controlled Nassau County Legislature on Thursday unanimously approved a measure to reform its commercial property assessment system, requiring business owners to submit income and expense statements to the county annually or face hefty fines.

The county currently solicits the income data from commercial property owners. But roughly one out every three businesses does not comply with the request, forcing the Department of Assessment to estimate the correct assessed value of commercial properties.

Lawmakers said the current system has led to a high volume of errors and challenges. Roughly 80 percent of the county's tax refund backlog is for commercial properties.

"Clearly the system is not working the way it should," said Legis. Howard J. Kopel (R-Lawrence).

Nassau can fine noncomplying businesses $500 but the independent Office of Legislative Budget Review found the county collects the fine only 45 percent of the time.

The new law requires all "income generating properties" to submit an income and expense statement to the county assessor by April 1 each year.

Businesses that do not comply will face a penalty of 0.25 percent of the fair market value of the property. The fine grows to 0.75 percent within a year and all unpaid penalties become a lien on the property.

The bill is modeled after a similar law operating in New York City.

The legislature also:

Approved $87 million in funding for capital projects, including $72 million in borrowing to transform the old Department of Social Services building in Garden City into the county's new Family Court. Relocation of the Family Court, located in a 53-year-old building in Westbury, has been an issue for years, with critics complaining the site is cramped and needs more parking.

Confirmed Carnell Foskey as Nassau's new county attorney. Foskey is a former Family Court judge and most recently served as the county's parks commissioner. Facing questions from Democratic lawmakers, Foskey said he laid off nine deputy county attorneys after taking over the office last month but declined to offer a motive for the moves. Foskey told lawmakers he would give the dismissals a "second look."

Approved the creation of an Islandwide aquifer protection panel charged with evaluating Long Island's drinking water quality, threats and oversight needs. Suffolk County voted to create a Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection in October. The panels will work together.

Offered tributes to five departing county lawmakers. Leaving the legislature are Judi Bosworth (D-Great Neck), who was elected North Hempstead town supervisor; Robert Troiano (D-Westbury), who will be Bosworth's director of operations; Wayne Wink Jr. (D-Roslyn), who was elected North Hempstead town clerk; and Joseph V. Belesi (R-Farmingdale) and Joseph Scannell (D-Baldwin), who are retiring.

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