Reeling from a computer glitch they say was temporary, Nassau County officials said Thursday they've fixed their system and corrected thousands of errors on the sales prices of homes that popped up earlier this week on the lists used by the county's troubled property assessment system.
But a lawyer who represents more than 10,000 Nassau property owners who appealed their property assessments last year says he doesn't trust the county's explanation.
Instead, lawyer Fred Perry claims the computer glitch was part of the county's overall desire to discourage residents from filing appeals on their assessments, a process that costs Nassau County about $100 million every year in refunds.
"If this wasn't caught early, it would have deceived homeowners into not filing a protest," said Perry, of Dix Hills, one of the more prominent lawyers who have made a business out of grieving property taxes in Nassau. "My gut reaction is that this was not such an innocent mistake. Their goal is to reduce them [assessment appeals] across the board."
But County Assessor Ted Jankowski called Perry's claim "ridiculous" and blamed the temporary problem on a new $5-million computer program that was being introduced by his office. He says he still expects about 80,000 appeals on property taxes this year - about the same as last year.
The sales prices for homes that had been listed on the county Web site, were lower than the actual prices. Jankowski has said, however, that the erroneous values had no effect on actual assessments because they were not used to set the new property values.
"It was something that we picked up right away and fixed," said Jankowski, who pointed out that lawyers like Perry make a substantial sum of money by representing property owners who appeal their property taxes.
Each year, his department is responsible for developing "fair and equitable assessments" for some 418,000 residential and commercial properties in Nassau, a total value of $309 billion. Homeowners can expect to be notified of this year's property assessment sometime this month, he said.