Nassau Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) and William Gaylor (R-Lynbrook) joined in an unusual alliance Monday to try to stop legislative approval of the county tax levy, contending the usually routine measure included a possibly illegal property tax exemption for the Green Acres Mall.
That mall’s exemption raised tax rates in three Valley Stream school districts so high that some residents saw their school tax bills increase by more than $1,000 last month.
But Solages and Gaylor said the tax breaks granted the Green Acres Mall by the Hempstead Town Industrial Development Agency two years ago are affecting more than just Valley Stream residents. “I personally will have to pay over $1,500 extra,” said Solages.
Gaylor said the impact “spills over into Lynbrook, Malverne, North Valley Stream and South Franklin Square.”
Solages and Gaylor tried unsuccessfully to table the tax levy ordinance until they could hear from acting Nassau Assessor James Davis or until the Hempstead IDA reconsiders the pilot, or payment in lieu of taxes, granted to the mall’s California-based owner Macerich in December 2014.
County budget director Roseanne D’Aleva told lawmakers Monday that the tax levy had to pass that day. “It is required by charter,” she said. “The assessment roll is final.”
Administration officials also argued that it was too late to change the school tax bills, which were mailed last month.
But former Legis. Fran Becker, Gaylor’s Republican predecessor from Lynbrook who now works as County Executive Edward Mangano’s liaison to the legislature, pointed out that the charter imposes no penalty for delaying the levy vote.
“I’m fully on board with you on this,” Becker said. “It’s devastating. Lynbrook residents are dramatically impacted by this. I hope the pilot is put aside.”
Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino has said he will ask the town board on Nov. 15 to fire the IDA members who approved the tax break.
Solages contended the Hempstead IDA illegally reduced the assessment of the mall, giving it a $2 million break in property taxes compared to what it had been paying. A property’s assessed value is used to calculate taxes owed. Although the mall had challenged its assessment in state court, there had been no decision or settlement reducing its assessment when the IDA approved a pilot in an amount that assumed the reduction had been granted.
“If we know of an error, if there is an error, we are justifying that error,” Solages said, in urging lawmakers to table the levy ordinance. “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”
After a long recess, in which Republican legislators caucused behind closed doors, they emerged to vote 10-5 against tabling the levy, with Gaylor voting with the four Democrats present to table the measure.