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Nassau committee approves bill requiring county to detail impact of reassessment

The Nassau County Department of Assessment in Mineola

The Nassau County Department of Assessment in Mineola Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. Credit: Barry Sloan

A Nassau legislative committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a Republican-sponsored bill that would require the county to identify the impact of a planned re-assessment on residents' property tax bills.

Democrats cautioned the administration of Democratic County Executive Laura Curran to slow down the re-assessment because the process was "borderline reckless" and could cause "mass hysteria across Nassau County."

The bill and legislators' concerns came a week after Curran said she would change the level of assessment from .25 to 0.1 percent. The level of assessment, used to compute tax bills, is a fraction of the market value of the property.

The move would bring homeowners up to fair market value more swiftly and eliminate inequities in the tax bills between residents who have challenged their assessments and those who have not since the tax rolls were frozen in 2011 by former County Executive Edward Mangano.

Curran in March had agreed to use the 0.25 ratio and her turnaround last week has infuriated some lawmakers who fear that the tax bills of residents who have  successfully challenged their assessments in the past will rise more quickly under the .1 ratio.

Legis. Delia DeRiggi Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said she had concerns about the transparency of the re-assessment process, calling it "borderline reckless." She said she  has been approached by residents who have grieved over the years.

"People are feeling like they did what they're supposed to do, and now they might be getting hit quite severely," she said.

Another Democrat, Legis. Siela Bynoe of Westbury, said she was fearful that a lack of transparency about the re-assessment would create "large mass hysteria across Nassau County."

Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) said the county should  consider changing the level of assessment another year.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers approved the bill 7-0. The bill goes before the 19-member legislature later this month.

County Assessor David Moog said it could take seven weeks for the new notices to be published.

In a letter to lawmakers Tuesday, Moog said his department cannot provide the "hypothetical" tax estimate by Nov. 1, when assessment disclosure notices are expected to be mailed to property owners. He said his staff was finalizing the 2018-19 school tax roll and could not devote "significant time and resources" to create the hypothetical roll in time. 

He said the administration would conduct a supplemental impact with a mailing to residents.  

"Find a way or make one," Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore) told Moog. 

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) questioned Moog's contention that work on the school tax rolls would prevent the department from publishing the notices. Tax receivers in Nassau's three towns  said they had already received the roll and were printing tax bills.

Moog said there were other details to be finalized.

In other business, the committee unanimously rejected Curran's request to hire a chief negotiator at $625 an hour to represent the county in labor negotiations with its major unions.

The union contracts expired Dec. 31, 2017.

The committee in August had tabled a contract to hire Gary Dellaverson, a prominent labor relations attorney, and pay him as much as $585,000. He would have been paid flat fees of as much as $25,000. Wednesday's proposal was also to be capped at $585,000, but he would have been paid at an hourly rate.

Republicans suggested that county officials find a lead negotiator from one of the firms already hired by the county.

Christopher Nicolino, Nassau's director of labor relations, said Dellaverson "is the pre-eminent government-side public sector negotiator in this entire region." Dellaverson worked at the MTA and LIRR with Helena Williams, a former president of the LIRR, who serves as chief deputy county executive. Dellaverson had served as chief labor negotiator and chief financial officer for the MTA.

Michael Santeramo, director of government affairs, said "we deserve the right to the team that we want to go into negotiations with, and the County Executive will not begin negotiations or continue negotiations without the passage" of this contract.

With Celeste Hadrick

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