Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is hoping to slow down the pace of commercial tax challenges as he deals with problems in the county's property tax assessment system, his aides said Friday.
"What we're trying to do is get some breathing space as we figure out the scope of the tax problem," one official said, asking not to be identified because of the delicate negotiations with tax lawyers and the court system.
In an executive order he signed on New Year's Day, Mangano directed the county attorney's office to seek a 120-day moratorium on court trials of pending property tax challenge cases, and to try to restart mandatory settlement conferences to prevent cases having to go to trial.
The chief administrative judge for Nassau County, Justice Anthony Marano, confirmed through a spokesman that he had met with county attorneys this week about the Mangano requests, and planned to meet again next week. The spokesman said the judge would not comment until after those discussions had taken place.
Attorney Laureen Harris of Mineola, who specializes in commercial tax appeals, said she welcomed both suggestions from Mangano. "I have 14 or 15 cases awaiting trial myself, and I think this is a brilliant idea," she said.
"The hope is that this will give everybody a breather, and reasonable heads will prevail," said Harris, who is vice chairwoman of the Committee on Condemnation and Tax Certiorari of the Nassau County Bar Association.
She said mandatory pretrial conferences for property tax cases were abandoned a few years ago because the county was not making serious settlement offers.
Aides to Mangano said a 120-day moratorium would not hurt any property owners and noted the executive order had specifically exempted cases where "the absence of such filing would materially prejudice the rights of any owner."
They said residential assessments account for the bulk of the tax challenges, but commercial assessments account for the monetary bulk of the problem - about 80 percent of the roughly $100 million in annual refunds.