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Pols: Nassau assessment's 'broken' system is nothing new

Democrats and Republicans have decried the county's property assessment system for years.

For Republicans or Democrats, Nassau’s assessment system has been “broken” for years.

When Nassau Republicans on Monday called for the return of an elected property tax assessor to combat what they said was an “error-riddled” reassessment, County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, objected. She said she would veto such legislation.

Republicans for the eight years Republican Ed Mangano was county executive, “promoted a broken assessment system that cheated property owners,” Curran said in a statement. “Assessment is a mess they created.”

But assessment was a problem long before that.

Voters in 2008 agreed to change the assessor from an elected position to a county executive appointee. Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi in January 2009 named Ted Jankowski as his assessor and ordered him to reform the assessment system.

Suozzi said his goal was to restore confidence in a “broken” system, although Mangano later fired Jankowski for widespread tax roll errors.

By 2009, Democrats had been in control of the county Legislature for nine years. The assessment system had been under control of a Democratic assessor, Harvey Levinson, for five years.

Levinson had said in November 2003 when he defeated Republican Assessor Charles O’Shea, “Tom Suozzi has constantly said Nassau County was broken, and there was no department more broken than the assessment department. I will go in there and clean house.”

O’Shea was defeated largely because of widespread dissatisfaction with the countywide reassessment that concluded in 2003. The reassessment occurred after the county legislature in 2000, Republican County Executive Thomas Gulotta and O’Shea agreed to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by minority residents who said the assessment system was discriminatory.

Before that, Nassau’s last countywide reassessment had taken place in 1938.

Economist Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socioeconomic Policy, said the assessment system has been “broken” since Nassau’s assessment department failed to keep up with rising residential values in the mid-1980s.

Cantor, a former Suffolk County economic development commissioner, said Mangano had hired him in 2010 to look at the “broken” assessment system.

Cantor said he concluded the technology was old and the system was understaffed — the same things, he said that can be said today.

“Having a broken assessment system is a bipartisan, nonpartisan issue,” Cantor said. “It has nothing to do with any of this political stuff.”

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