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Nassau County Executive Curran urges lawmakers to OK assessment phase-in

County Executive LauraCurran, seen here in January, gave

County Executive LauraCurran, seen here in January, gave lawmakers the administration's calculation of how the phase-in will affect their individual districts.   Credit: Howard Schnapp

County Executive Laura Curran urged all 19 Nassau legislators Thursday to pass her proposed five-year phase-in program for the countywide reassessment, telling them it will lead to a decrease in property taxes for a majority of homeowners in their districts when existing tax exemptions are included.

Curran delivered a letter to each legislator, giving her administration’s calculation of how the phase-in will affect their individual districts. Overall, she said, 55 percent of all Nassau homeowners are expected to see decreases in the first year of the phase-in.

The administration’s forecasts range from 50.1 percent of homeowners getting reductions in Republican Legis. Rose Marie Walker’s 17th District, which includes Bethpage and Hicksville, to 65.7 percent of all homeowners receiving reductions in Democrat and Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams’ 1st District, which includes Uniondale, Roosevelt and part of Freeport.

The estimates are based on tax rates used in the October 2018 school tax bills and January 2019 general tax bills. Officials acknowledge that tax rates and levies are likely to change before the new values are first used in the October 2020 school tax bills.

The administration did not immediately have estimates for the average tax increase or decrease in each legislative district.

Individual homeowners’ tax impact estimates are expected to be posted on the county website in the near future, officials said.

The county executive’s letters are part of an ongoing campaign by Curran and county Democrats to pressure Nassau Republican legislators into signing the phase-in legislation, which is designed to smooth out the impact of dramatic tax changes resulting from the new assessments. The previous Republican administration had frozen or reduced assessments for eight years despite rising property values.

Curran spokeswoman Chris Geed said in an email that the letters’ tax reduction estimates are for the first year of the phase-in, which Curran has dubbed the “Taxpayer Protection Plan.”

“Over the following four years, tax burdens will gradually increase for taxpayers who had received protection from large immediate impacts and decrease for taxpayers who had been overpaying under the frozen roll,” Geed said.

The phase-in program was part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s approved budget this year. Because of the way the legislation was written, it did not need a separate vote by Albany lawmakers. Instead it requires the Republican-controlled county legislature to vote affirmatively to opt into the program.

But Republicans, who have criticized errors and mistakes that have occurred in the reassessment of more than 400,000 Nassau commercial and residential properties, say they do not have to approve the residential phase-in until August of next year.

Presiding Officer Richard J. Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said: “The administration continues to mishandle reassessment. In their rush to ram through the county executive's plan, they have made mistake after mistake and failed to fully inform the residents.

"The majority will approach this differently. We will insist on full disclosure to the legislature and the residents before we consider the measure. The county executive should stop playing games and stop withholding information so that we can move ahead.” 

Curran said in her letters that commercial properties under existing law automatically have a five-year phase-in of the new values, starting next year. “Our residential property owners deserve the same type of assessment protection without further delay,” Curran wrote.

Abrahams said in a statement, “We have called on the Republican majority to implement this five-year phase-in. For them not to act expeditiously would be both irresponsible and cruel to the homeowners that are in need of this relief.” 

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