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Lawyer calls Nassau tax impact notices 'deceptive,' 'inaccurate'

The Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building, the

The Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building, the seat of government in Nassau, is shown in Mineola on Nov. 20, 2013. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

A leading property tax challenge attorney is calling Nassau’s tax impact notices “deceptive” and “highly inaccurate”  as the county acknowledges it is redoing 20,000 recently mailed assessment disclosure notices because of undefined “errors.”

Attorney Fred Perry, who represents hundreds of homeowners who challenge their assessments each year, plans to post on his website that the county’s new reassessment has overvalued 33 percent of Nassau’s 386,000 single-family homes when compared  with recent sales prices.

He also said the county is using seven-year-old data that “grossly inflate” the tax impact of the reassessment as a way to scare homeowners into accepting a proposed five-year phase-in of the new values.

“Excessive phase-in programs render the reassessment meaningless, limits successful worthy tax protests, can easily confuse homeowners and encourage disruptive lawsuits alleging discrimination,” Perry wrote in a statement he intends to post on his website.

“We don’t understand Mr. Perry’s calculations,” responded Michael Martino, spokesman for County Executive Laura Curran. “The county executive unfroze the tax roll and did the first reassessment in almost eight years. She didn’t break the assessment system, but she’s going to fix it.”

Martino also acknowledged, when questioned by Newsday, that 20,000 new assessment disclosure notices had been sent out because of “clerical errors” in the original notices. He said the errors had no effect on the tax impact notices, which estimate how the assessment changes would affect each property owner's tax bills.

The tax impact notices were posted on the county website last week and are also supposed to be mailed to each property owner by Dec. 1.

Martino declined to give specifics about the errors.

Perry said he has been flooded with calls from Nassau homeowners angry and upset after receiving notice of their new values resulting from the reassessment. The new values are to be included in the tentative assessment roll issued Jan. 1.

Perry said he had done a random sampling of recent sales prices and found 33 percent of all Nassau homes are “appreciably overvalued.”

Perry also said that the county calculated the estimated tax impact by using the same .25 percent level of assessment — the fraction of market value used to calculate assessments — that was in effect in 2011, when former County Executive Edward Mangano froze assessment increases while approving thousands of reductions.

But Perry said the county since then had agreed with tax attorneys to use a lower assessment ratio each year when considering tax challenges. Because the county’s impact notice estimated taxes from the 2017-18 tax year, it should have used a .16 percent ratio, he said. Using the seven-year-old ratio “grossly inflates reassessment value increases,” he said.

Exaggerating the tax impact helps the county sell its phase-in proposal, Perry said.

Sean Acosta, who runs another successful tax challenge firm, said Monday that the county has yet to provide him with the data he needs to draw good conclusions. But he believes the phase-in could delay tax relief to minority communities that have been undervalued.

Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), presiding officer of the county legislature, said Perry’s statement “is confirming what we have been learning anecdotally about these homes being overassessed. The comment I get most often is, ‘If I could sell my home at that price, I would sell it right now.’ ”

“This points out the whole process is in a shambles, a mess,” Nicolello said.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) declined to comment.


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