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Advocates: Scrap Nassau fee hikes in proposed county budget

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, shown in Mineola

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, shown in Mineola on Aug. 16, 2017, proposes a nearly $60 million increase in real estate and traffic fees as part of Nassau's 2018 budget. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Public hearings on Nassau’s 2018 budget have yet to start, but county legislators already are being lobbied to scrap a controversial proposal to hike real estate and traffic fees.

Several industry representatives spoke at Monday’s County Legislature meeting to urge lawmakers to reject nearly $60 million in fee increases included in County Executive Edward Mangano’s $2.99 billion spending plan.

Mangano, a Republican who isn’t seeking re-election, proposes raising $35 million by increasing the $55 “public safety fee” tacked onto traffic and red-light camera tickets, adopted last year. He is leaving legislators to determine the exact amount.

To raise another $23.6 million, Mangano wants to increase the fee to access information on tax map parcels used in land document recording from $355 to $455 and hike the block fees for land recording transactions from $300 to $400.

A decade ago, the tax map verification fee didn’t exist and the block fees were $10.

Tim Lachapelle, legislative liaison for the Long Island Board of Realtors, noted Monday that those fees have driven the total cost of recording a deed in Nassau County — something necessary to buy a home or refinance or satisfy a mortgage — to more than $1,000.

He contrasted that cost with officials’ frequent touting of the lack of county property tax increases over recent years.

“I would like you guys to tell that to someone who is 2 years away from ending a 30-year mortgage and is going to owe the county more than $1,000,” Lachapelle said.

County Clerk Maureen O’Connell, a Republican, last week decried the tax map and block fee increases as “outrageous, punitive” and “immoral,” saying that they did not represent the actual cost of filing the documents. She urged legislators not only to reject the proposed increases, but to roll back hikes that have already been instituted.

“The fees as they exist are unsustainable,” Rafe Lieber, a former Democratic political aide who now works in the title industry, told lawmakers Monday. “An increase to the current fees would be beyond unfair.”

Legislators will hold several public hearings on the 2018 budget next month, and must approve it by Oct. 31 — a week before Election Day.

They did not offer any public comments Monday on the proposed fee increases, but have generally signaled that they may look for other ways to generate revenue to balance the budget.

Alec Slatky, a policy liaison with AAA Northeast, said lawmakers should wholly reject increasing the $55 fee on traffic tickets. He noted that Mangano’s request didn’t even specify an amount — a sign, he said, that generating revenue, not public safety, was the primary motive.

“It’s purely about balancing the budget. It’s not about sound public policy,” Slatky said.

The Mangano administration has said it is leaving legislators to determine the best way to raise the additional revenue from the traffic fees because they were the ones to reduce the initial proposal last year, from $105 per ticket to the $55 that was ultimately approved.

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