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Town tax receivers fire back at Laura Curran over tax abatements

Republicans James Stefanich of Oyster Bay and Donald Clavin of Hempstead demand that the Democratic county executive probe property tax assessment mistakes.

Hempstead Town Tax Receiver Donald Clavin, shown Feb.

Hempstead Town Tax Receiver Donald Clavin, shown Feb. 1 Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Two Nassau town tax receivers fired back at County Executive Laura Curran Friday, demanding she conduct an investigation into property tax assessment mistakes to restore public confidence in county government.

Republican tax receivers James Stefanich, of Oyster Bay, and Donald Clavin, of Hempstead, demanded accountability from Curran, a Democrat who had blamed them Thursday for making “erroneous public statements” about missing senior tax abatements.

“Rather than pass the buck, it's time to solve the problem,” Stefanich said in a news release.

“Your assessment department really needs to answer the phones and respond to our inquiries to ensure that any future issues are addressed immediately,” Clavin said in a letter. “Our taxpayers deserve better.”

Curran responded to both by letter, saying she was disappointed they did not first confer with her and the county treasurer “before you made your unsubstantiated allegation to the media.”

Curran said both should immediately provide her with a list of properties they believe were supposed to get tax abatements but did not. Their assertions, she said, represented, “a genuine disservice to limited-income seniors, who are some of our most valuable, but also most vulnerable, residents.”

The clash among the three elected officials came as Curran on Friday returned unsigned a resolution passed unanimously by the county legislature to extend the county’s tax grievance deadline to April 30 from March 1.

Curran said in a memo she considered the resolution “to be of questionable validity and superfluous” since the county Assessment Review Commission had agreed to the extension — although tentative assessment notices last month included the incorrect March 1 deadline. To date, no correction has been made.

At a news conference Thursday, Curran said Nassau's three  tax receivers were "incorrect" when they said the county had omitted senior abatement information from assessment data used to generate general tax bills. Total overcharges could amount to more than $300,000, the receivers said.

Apparently taking a cue from President Donald Trump’s tweets, Assessor David Moog subsequently posted on an assessment-related website that the Newsday story about the receiver’s complaints “was basically fake news.”

Curran posted on her county Facebook page that, “This was inaccurate and irresponsible news reporting.”

Stefanich and Clavin rejected Curran’s accusations. But North Hempstead Receiver Charles Berman, a Democrat, backed off his initial claims and agreed Thursday that no seniors were overbilled.

Stefanich in his Friday news release said he sees “growing anger among residents” over assessment mistakes. He demanded Curran conduct "an extensive investigation into the mismanagement of the assessment department, its ... failure to address residents’ concerns and incompetence when it comes to communicating.”

He said the county treasurer directed the town collect $181,337 in excess property tax payments.

County treasurer Beaumont Jefferson responded, “This is a reconciliation issue and does not translate into an overcollection of taxes . . . We reviewed the warrant and tax bills and did not find evidence that the abatement was not included.”

Clavin, meanwhile, provided an itemized list of missing exemptions and abatement miscalculations he found in the tax warrants from the county.

“Nassau County taxpayers deserve accuracy and accountability and honesty from the Nassau County executive, not finger-pointing and misstatements,” Clavin wrote.

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