Nassau homeowners filed a record number of property tax challenges this year despite a six-year freeze on assessments and an ongoing program to settle protests before tax refunds are due.
With the next appeal period beginning in January, county records show 183,048 grievances were filed in 2016 by residential and commercial property owners — the highest number on record and even more than were filed after the 2003 countywide reassessment.
That total number includes 162,202 residential protests compared to 141,043 in 2003 when homeowners were notified of their reassessed values after the first revaluation in more than 60 years.
Commercial, condominium and utility properties made up the remainder of the protests. The protests filed for those properties have remained fairly steady over the years.
County Executive Edward Mangano initiated the “residential settlement program in 2011 as a way to reduce the approximate $20 million in residential refunds the county was paying each year. He also froze assessments that were generated on Jan. 1, 2011 except for new construction or additions.
Since then, the county has reduced assessments each year for more than 75 percent of the total protests filed. Not surprisingly, with the yearly reduction in assessments, the county’s total taxable assessed valuation, which was nearly $873.5 million in 2010, has dropped to $601.1 million this year — a 28.21 percent drop. In comparison, home values in Nassau over the same period have increased 12.2 percent, according to Miller Samuel, a Manhattan-based appraisal company that tracks Long Island home sales.
Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), a critic of the county’s assessment system and a candidate for county executive next year, said, “The large number of grievances is a direct reflection of a faulty assessment system.”
But acting Assessor James Davis said, “Grievances continued to be filed in record numbers due to ever-increasing school taxes that encourage homeowners to grieve in an effort to bring down their tax bill. Also, there is no fee involved in filing of a property tax grievance.”
Since 2012, however, state law has capped annual increases in school districts’ tax levys to 2 percent, or the rate of inflation, unless 60 percent of district voters agree to override the cap.
Davis also pointed to the high number of solicitations mailed homeowners by tax reduction companies, which promise no fee unless they receive a reduction.
“It is important to note that most residential grievances are settled [in a] timely [manner], resulting in no additional costs to taxpayers,” Davis said.
He added, “The county’s intention was to start to reassess properties in 2013, however, superstorm Sandy prevented that from occurring. Presently, a systematic review is underway that will allow the county to capture the current housing market values in the future.”
Mangano, who has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges in a case unrelated to assessment, contends his reforms to the assessment system have reduced the $20 million in residential tax refunds the county had been paying.
He also has said that a new system for paying commercial tax challenges, which begins in January, will eliminate the county’s costs for paying those refunds. The county comptroller has estimated the tax refund backlog at $327 million.