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Reassessment phase-in passes Nassau legislative committees

Nassau County Legislator presiding officer Richard Nicolello during

Nassau County Legislator presiding officer Richard Nicolello during a meeting on Feb. 24 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A bill to phase-in Nassau County's first reassessment in nearly a decade over five years to prevent sudden spikes in property tax bills cleared a key legislative committee Monday.

The vote came nearly a year after County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, first filed phase-in legislation.

Last Friday, majority Republicans took Curran's "Taxpayer Protection Plan" and reintroduced it with their own name, the "Reassessment Phase-In Act of 2020."

Republicans made no substantive changes to Curran's legislation, which works as an exemption and applies property valuation increases in annual, 20 percent increments to spread out tax burden changes over the five-year period.

The bill passed the legislature's Rules Committee 7-0, and must pass the full, 19-member legislature at the body's next meeting on March 23.

Tax bills for more than 205,000 homeowners in Nassau County — about 53% of the total — are expected to rise in October and January under the reassessment plan, with the phase-in included, according to county projections.

More than 177,000 property owners — 46% — are projected to see tax reductions for the 2020-21 tax year.

The state Legislature authorized the phase-in in March 2019, but the county must pass its own local law. Republicans had declined to call Curran's phase-in bill all of last year, citing concern about the county's handling of reassessment.

Last week, Nassau Assessor David Moog testified at a hearing that county lawmakers needed to pass the phase-in bill immediately to ensure the measure and other calculations were applied correctly.

Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), the presiding officer, said in an interview after the vote that the bill was "imperfect" but he planned to support it.

While Republicans sought state relief for taxpayers who are owed reductions, "at this stage, it's going to be a take it or leave it proposition … "I believe we have the votes to pass it."

As for the decision to rename Curran's bill, Nicolello said, "The title of taxpayer protection plan is misleading. There are taxpayers who are going to be hurt by this — the people who are decreasing who should be seeing relief sooner."

Nicolello continued, "How could that be called a protection plan. It's not. It helps some, it hurts some … I thought, let's have an honest title, instead of something that was concocted as a P.R. stunt."

Mike Fricchione, a Curran spokesman, said in a statement: "Changing the name of the County Executive’s Taxpayer Protection Plan, which will provide significant tax relief for homeowners, is just another attempt of the Republican Majority to convince taxpayers that they’ve finally taken action. Nassau County taxpayers will not forget their decade of doing nothing as they continue to play petty politics."

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said, "from our standpoint, we could've done this last year. At the end of the day, there is not one change they [Republicans] made to the bill."

"That means we squandered plenty of opportunity for the Department of Assessment to implement this and implement this right," Abrahams said. "We held this up for 6 to 8 months so we can change it from the Taxpayer Protection Plan" to its new title.

"It's all semantics, ultimately," Abrahams said.

Also Monday, legislative committees approved Curran's pick for county sheriff, James E. Dzurenda, a corrections expert with experience running prison systems in Nevada and Connecticut.

Committees also approved Curran's choice to run a new Crime Victims Advocate office, Jeanine Diehl, a senior assistant district attorney in the Queens district attorney's office.

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