Notre Dame Parish in New Hyde Park received a surprise bill for nearly $677,000 in school taxes last month, after a Nassau Assessment Department error produced a $16.7 million assessment on the tax-exempt property, county records show.
Assessment officials acknowledged last week they mistakenly removed a nearly half-century-old exemption for the 3.8-acre property on Mayfair Road for the 2022-23 tax year.
State law exempts nonprofits, including houses of worship, from property taxes.
The error resulted in a tax bill of $676,634 that was mailed early last month to the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which owns the property, records show.
Acting Nassau County Assessor Matthew Cronin told Newsday in a statement: “As a result of a human error, Notre Dame Parish was erroneously sent a tax bill. A portion of the property had been sold and the remaining portion did not receive the exemption. The employee responsible has been disciplined, and the error has been corrected.”
County officials did not say how they planned to make up the $676,000 shortfall in tax collections, or how tax rates for other homeowners in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District might be affected.
Under a state law known as the county guaranty, Nassau is responsible for making refunds to property owners who are overassessed.
Changes to property assessments affect homeowners who live in the same school district, town or county.
Since the municipality doesn't change the overall tax levy, the remaining taxpayers must make up the difference.
North Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Charles Berman, whom the diocese alerted to the mistake on Oct. 25, said tax rates are likely to jump for district taxpayers in 2023-24, after the corrections are made.
“There’s $16.7 million of market value that was put on the tax rolls that doesn’t belong there," Berman told Newsday. "That’s going to be taken off, so that impacts all the tax rates.”
Berman, a Democrat, said the mistake occurred after the parish sold off a single-family home on the property in January.
The county should have removed the exemption only for the three-bedroom Colonial, which sold for $630,000.
“I’ve never seen an error on a wholly exempt property like this, where they just removed the exemption before the [tax] warrant” goes out, Berman said.
Towns use county tax warrants to send out school, county and town tax bills.
Berman said he immediately alerted Nassau County officials to the error.
Discovery of the error affecting Notre Dame Parish comes after disclosure of other assessment mistakes in Nassau over the past month after the administration of Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman had finalized tax warrants for the 2022-23 tax year.
Last month, the county legislature corrected assessments on 842 properties after assessment officials acknowledged they had failed to apply a key tax exemption to the homes. The county disciplined an employee in that matter, officials said.
The mistake could cost Nassau County more than $1.55 million in property tax refunds, according to legislative documents.
Blakeman and other Republicans made an issue of assessment errors under former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, whom Blakeman defeated last November.
Assessment experts said Curran's reassessment in 2020 produced accurate home values.
But Newsday documented several missteps by her administration, such as failure to apply exemptions to numerous condominium properties and publication of an incorrect tentative assessment roll.
Republican and Democratic Nassau County legislators called last week for a detailed explanation of how the assessment error affecting Notre Dame Parish occurred.
“This is an unacceptable error. We will make sure the Church is made whole as soon as possible," Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said in a statement to Newsday.
"The Assessor must explain why this happened and provide the measures he will take so that it doesn't happen again,” Nicolello said.
Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, told Newsday in a statement: “The Parish of Notre Dame in New Hyde Park acknowledges this is simply an error and is grateful to the County Assessor and Town of North Hempstead Receiver of Taxes for their prompt attention to this matter.”
Legis. Debra Mulé (D-Freeport), referring to the error that affected exemptions on the 842 homes, said county legislators were "assured that yes, the previous mistake had happened, it was a human error. But what's this one? This one was glaring, and it was discovered not by the Department of Assessment, but it was discovered by the Town of North Hempstead Tax Receiver."
Mulé argued, "had the proper controls been put in place, this mistake never would've happened, and now the county taxpayers are on the hook for another $600,000 … ."
She continued, "I have no confidence that more mistakes will not be discovered."