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Nassau property tax challenges approaching record numbers

Town of Hempstead Tax Receiver Donald Clavin speaks

Town of Hempstead Tax Receiver Donald Clavin speaks during a Assessment Review Committee hearing Monday at the Nassau County Legislature in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The number of Nassau County taxpayers challenging their tentative 2020-21 property valuations is on track to break a record, with more than 253,000 grievances expected by the filing deadline Tuesday, officials said.

The county’s Assessment Review Commission will examine each tax challenge individually — and not grant mass settlements — despite the large number of challenges, said Robin Laveman, ARC chairwoman.

“Our goal is to provide a meaningful review to all of our filers,” said Laveman, who expressed confidence her staff of 52 employees can handle the surge of cases. “ … I do not anticipate needing to do mass settlements this year."

Laveman, who testified at a hearing of the Nassau County Legislature on Monday night, said residents who grieve their taxes on their own will receive the same treatment as property owners who hire attorneys to challenge the county on their behalf.

County legislators and experts had anticipated a surge in challenges to Nassau’s new property values after County Executive Laura Curran implemented the first revaluation of every Nassau property — more than 400,000 — in nearly a decade.

The administration of former County Executive Edward Mangano froze the tax rolls, shifting the burden from taxpayers who grieved their taxes to those who did not, a Newsday series found. Critics said granting mass settlements contributed to disparities in tax assessments.

At the hearing, Republican and Democratic lawmakers expressed concern about whether ARC would be able to handle the influx of challenges.

Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore) asked Laveman whether the large number of cases would, “create a temptation to cut corners.”

Rhoads warned, “You are now in a battle between accuracy and time. The more you concentrate on accuracy you are compromising time.”

Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said: "This number is huge. You're taking about going back over more than 70 percent of the properties." 

“It will be a tough haul but we have full faith that we will accomplish the task,” Laveman said.

ARC, an independent agency separate from the Nassau County Department of Assessment, has begun reviewing the 2020-21 challenges and new appraisers are being hired, Laveman said. ARC has until April 1, 2020, to produce a final tax roll.

Also Monday, Curran announced a new panel to examine all the laws, rules and procedures ARC uses, saying they haven't been updated since 2003. The panel will include county legislators, members of the tax certiorari bar, residential representatives and a representative from the county attorney's office. 

"Inconsistencies in the laws and rules used by ARC were much less significant when the assessment roll was frozen for nearly a decade," Curran said in a statement.

Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin, who spoke at the legislative hearing, called for the meetings to be public.

Also Monday, legislative committees advanced:

  • A ban on Styrofoam containers in the county, similar to a New York City law enacted earlier this year and a bill approved last month in Suffolk County.
  • Tuition assistance for Gold Star families and family members of fallen first responders to attend Nassau Community College. The scholarship would be funded in the county budget through the Office of Emergency Management.
  • The appointment of Farrah Mozawalla as executive director of the county’s new Office of Asian American Affairs. Mozawalla formerly served as deputy director of the Office of Minority Affairs. Her appointment is pending a vote by the county legislature on May 20.

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