When the topic turns to property tax reform, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano gets his motor running.
Mangano was the guest speaker Monday night at Uniondale High School as the Nostrand Gardens Civic Association celebrated its 55th anniversary.
Mangano had the enviable task of following civics president Melvin Harris, Jr., a sparkplug of a speaker who can capture your attention just by turning on the microphone.
The soft-spoken Mangano made a few remarks, then asked for questions. The topics included youth violence, potholes, jobs, the Lighthouse Project, and finally, Mangano’s favorite topic: property tax assessments.
The tenth questioner, a woman in a middle row, rose to her feet. “Mr. Mangano. Three words: tax relief fast.”
“You got it,” Mangano shot back.
His shoes might have been nailed to floor up until that point, but then he got mobile.
“Let me to start by saying that in Nassau County there is such a significant waste, utter waste of your taxpayer dollars that we’re taking head-on, and we’ll have some announcements shortly,” he said.
Mangano began pacing back and forth. He seemed to pivot rather than just change direction.
“And let me give you the scope of that waste. Each year we waste $250 million, nearly 10 percent of our budget, 10 cents on the dollar goes solely to pay back errors and the interest on those errors ...
“We can’t keep up with that. We’ve accumulated over $1.1 billion in debt. Almost one half of your entire indebtedness here in Nassau County, 46 percent, are errors of the real property tax assessment.”
As he got into it, he began to move the cordless microphone from hand to hand as he walked.
“Now let me put that in perspective. You want to talk about creating jobs, opportunity, buildings, improving your parks. Well the other half of that debt ... that’s what it did. It built buildings. It improved parks. It repaves our roads. It creates jobs. It improves your community. It raises your home value ...
The overflow crowd in the hallway cut their chatter and leaned in the doorway to listen.
“The other one half? A total, utter waste! Simply put, after 10 years there is no doubt in my mind that Nassau County has the inability to revalue your property accurately each year. It does not work ...
“It is spiraling our county into an abyss of debt. Your children are being indebted, and you can’t keep up with the payments. I am going to change that system, as painful as it may be, it’s going to change. I guarantee you that!”
And a few minutes later, Ed left the building.