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Long IslandPolitics

Nassau County tax roll for '20-'21 gets unanimous approval

A residential tax roll approved Monday Oct. 26,

A residential tax roll approved Monday Oct. 26, 2020 is the first to be calculated under the countywide reassessment by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, shown. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Legislature voted unanimously Monday to certify the 2020-21 tax roll for more than 385,000 residential properties, the first to be calculated under Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's countywide reassessment.

Approval of the roll allows the county to submit home valuation data in the form of "tax warrants" to the towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay. The towns will use the data to publish school tax bills, which are set to be mailed next month. Bills are due by Dec. 10; after that, penalty or interest charges may apply. The deadline was extended from Nov. 10.

Before the vote, majority legislative Republicans expressed concern about the 11,645 assessment challenges that could not be resolved by the time the roll was set and still are in the court system.

The county is responsible for refunds awarded to property owners who win reductions after the roll is set and tax bills have gone into the mail.

More than 80,000 taxpayers filed assessment challenges through the final appeals process known as "small claims assessment review," or SCAR. The number was significantly lower in previous years because the Assessment Review Commission, the first county agency to weigh in on tax challenges, was granting huge numbers of automatic reductions to filers.

Curran, a Democrat, ordered the reassessment of all county properties to be completed for the 2020-21 tax roll after a nearly decadelong freeze in property values. This year, the commission granted significantly fewer reductions, prompting an avalanche of SCAR cases.

The freeze and the practice of granting automatic reductions led to undervaluation of many properties when former County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, was in office. Homeowners who had not challenged their assessments ended up carrying an unfair share of the tax burden.

Deputy Nassau County Assessor Robert Miles testified Monday if the warrants weren't passed, delays in payments to school districts would result.

But Legis. John Ferretti Jr. (R-Levittown) suggested the Legislature needed to be careful.

"Residents are really hurting, residents are facing very, very tough financial times" in 2020, Ferretti told Miles.

"The idea that this is just some ministerial act, not to mention the countywide reassessment [for] the first time in … years, so the idea that this should be passed without any scrutiny, as I think you're certainly implying, I think is disappointing."

Miles said, "You are passing a tax roll, something that is passed on a yearly basis, every year. It’s a ministerial act."

But Miles told lawmakers he had no estimate of the county's potential liability from the outstanding assessment challenges, noting they come from properties with a wide range in values.

"We have no idea what the potential exposure is to county taxpayers," Miles said.

Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore) said: "We're being presented with a roll today that has a potential exposure, potential errors, if the court makes that determination, with respect to 12,000 individual property owners."

Legis. Rose Marie Walker (R-Hicksville) said, "even though we were promised over and over … that everything was correct, and [tax] bills would be correct, and you had enough people to do all these things, now we’re going to have to lay out money again in this upcoming year."

Miles said the coronavirus pandemic forced closure of the court system and gave taxpayers more time to consider filing SCAR cases, helping fuel an unprecedented caseload.

The deadline was originally April 30 but was moved to Sept. 4.

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