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Nassau County Legislature passes new assessment legislation

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) listens

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) listens as Nassau County Assessor David Moog speaks during a legislative assessment hearing on March 18 in Mineola. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau legislators voted Monday to require the county to release data and formulas used to calculate property valuations and notify taxpayers of their tentative assessments by mail in addition to email.

The two bills, proposed last month by majority Republicans, sought to make Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's reassessment of more than 450,000 properties countywide more transparent to the public.

The first bill would require the Department of Assessment to disclose, within five days of a records request, all electronic data files, algorithms, codes, formulas, scripts and programs used to calculate assessed values.

The second measure would require tentative assessment notices to be sent to taxpayers through the U.S. Postal Service.

Republicans say they have been frustrated by the rollout of Curran's reassessment plan. Curran is a Democrat.

"I am proud to see the first portion of our Assessment Bill of Rights passed through the legislature unanimously, even after members of the Curran Administration objected to measures that will ensure that every resident knows the results of their grievance. I look forward to seeing these bipartisan bills signed by the County Executive immediately to give the taxpayers of this county the transparency they deserve," said Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park). 

Mike Santeramo, deputy county executive for government relations and communications, in testimony before the passage of the bill, asked legislators to consider delaying the start of mail notifications for one year to avoid confusing taxpayers. 

On Monday, Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) asked what the paper mailings would cost the county. 

Jeremy May, vice chairman of the county's Assessment Review Commission, the county agency responsible for determining whether tax grievances are warranted, said taxpayers would receive three mailings costing the county about $100,000. ARC is independent of the Department of Assessment.

Legis. Vincent Muscarella (R-West Hempstead) said: "You would think the county would want to communicate these tax certiorari notices in as many ways as possible." 

Curran was noncommittal about whether she will sign the bills.

“After eight years of ignoring a corrupt assessment system, the GOP Majority has recently filed a flurry of legislation on assessment," Curran said in a statement. "They are late to the game. I can assure you that any legislation that promotes transparency and avoids consumer confusion I will review with an eye towards signing.”

Another bill approved Monday closes a loophole in the county’s contract disclosure laws.

The measure, proposed by Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) would require vendors to provide updated background information in writing before receiving contracts// for for county work.

Nassau uses disclosure forms that are as old as six months when asking the Legislature to authorize new work for vendors.

Bynoe questioned the six-month policy in June when Curran’s administration asked lawmakers to approve a $500,000 contract for Manhattan-based Exiger LLC to serve as the “integrity monitor” of the $50 million police academy construction project.

Exiger’s disclosure forms, which ask principals to list political contributions, criminal charges or financial troubles, had been submitted for a different project and were dated a month before the county solicited integrity monitors for the police academy construction. Curran subsequently withdrew the contract.

Also Monday, 18 people — most of them local pediatricians — spoke during the public comment portion of the legislative meeting in support of county legislation to protect children from the dangers of vaping. 

The bills, one of which was filed in May by Drucker, would ban flavored liquids used for vaporizers and prohibit vaping advertisements within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and other areas where children gather. 

Neither of the bills has been placed on the legislative calendar, which is controlled by the Republicans who hold an 11-8 legislative majority. 

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