Nassau’s new assessor has warned County Executive Laura Curran that if she keeps to a reassessment plan she promised county legislators earlier this year, the county likely will face the prospect of mass settlements of assessment challenges or $100 million to $200 million in tax refunds.
County Assessor David Moog last week wrote to Curran in a memo obtained by Newsday that a draft of the county’s tentative new residential assessments has found that only 1,314 of the county’s 386,000 residential properties could be adjusted to reflect their actual market value without violating state law or the county’s fixed level of assessment.
That means 99.24 percent of the county’s residential properties would be subject to state law that limits assessment increases to 6 percent a year or 20 percent over five years, Moog said.
The Republican-controlled legislature in March agreed to borrow $2.1 million to pay for a reassessment with new values to be issued in January. In return, Curran agreed to sign an executive order that said the reassessment would abide by the 6/20 state law.
She also said the reassessment would include a .25 level of assessment, which means property’s assessed value would represent .25 percent of market value.
Republicans wanted to prevent tax shocks to homeowners likely to face steep hikes in their new assessments after winning multiple reductions since 2011. Former County Executive Edward Mangano froze assessment increases in 2011 but then approved thousands of reductions as a way to reduce the $20 million annual cost of tax refunds.
“The Majority expects the County Executive to stand by her Executive Order and maintain the level of assessment and statutory limits on assessment increases,” Frank Moroney, a spokesman for the Republican legislative majority said in an email.
Moog noted that the county had agreed in 2011 to a stipulation that allows tax challenge firms to argue and set the level of assessment every year through challenges filed in 2024.
As a result, the actual level of assessment applied to residential property owners who filed tax challenges has dropped annually, giving them a near automatic assessment reduction. This year, the county has agreed to a .14 assessment ratio.
Because of the stipulation and the executive order, the county “would thus be boxed into an indefensible assessment [property tax] roll lacking accuracy and integrity,” Moog wrote.
“To avoid losing a ratio trial, the county would be forced into another round of mass reductions . . .,” he wrote. “The alternative would be unsuccessful litigation resulting in $100 to $200 million in additional refunds.”
Moog said Nassau has four options: Accept the negative consequences; attempt to overturn the stipulation agreement in court; get tax challenge companies to agree to supersede the stipulation; or amend the executive order Curran signed in March that would authorize Moog to set the level of assessment that he deemed legally defensible.
Tax challenge attorneys have met at least twice with county officials. Curran spokesman Michael Martino said no deal has been reached.
Martino acknowledged the current strategy would be to allow Moog to set a legally defensible assessment ratio and that Curran was working with presiding officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park). and tax grievance attorneys to reach some agreement.