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Pols express outrage over 2003 Nassau County assessment

This Levittown house has, according to Nassau County

This Levittown house has, according to Nassau County official property records, 70 toilets. Such errors point to the possibility that houses in the county are not being valued fairly for tax purposes. Photo Credit: Nassau County Department of Assessment

A Nassau County legislator Tuesday called for a probe of the county's 2003 reassessment, which cost taxpayers an estimated $61.48 million, while County Executive Edward Mangano vowed to overhaul the way the county collects assessment data.

Saying he was "outraged" by a Newsday story Sunday that reported gross inaccuracies in residential assessment data, Nassau Legis. Fran Becker (R-Lynbrook) said he plans to ask the county Legislature to investigate the reassessment and its multimillion-dollar price tag.

"This is an abuse of taxpayer money," Becker said, adding that he will send a letter to Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) requesting a legislative probe and referencing Newsday's findings.

A Schmitt spokeswoman said Schmitt had not yet received Becker's letter and could not comment.

Also in response to the Newsday story, Mangano said Tuesday he planned to create better standardized practices in the county's assessment system. "Part of the dysfunction is how assessment data is collected and maintained," he said.

The two moves come in the wake of a Newsday investigation Sunday that found about 10,000 potential errors in just one category of Nassau's tax assessment database.

While Nassau County Assessor Ted Jankowski said the mistakes, all related to the number of bathrooms and additional plumbing fixtures, likely don't affect assessed value, others suggested they might have an impact. The mistakes likely occurred either during inputting before the countywide reassessment, or when the department switched from one software system to another during the reassessment, experts said.

County records show that Nassau has spent $61.48 million on outside vendors and consultants since 2000 for the reassessment, along with upgrades and support for the department's computer systems.

Despite efforts now to make assessment reform a top priority, Deputy County Executive Patrick Foye said correcting the thousands of data errors is not going to be a "simple fix."

"The county's assessment system needs to be both accurate and transparent," said Foye, who is heading the effort to reform the system. "There are significant shortcomings in both areas."

Becker said he wants to know why the older Wang computer system is still being used, why the data are unreliable and how the information in the computer system was acquired and inputted.

"The disparities and mistakes are beyond anything anyone could imagine after spending $40 [million] to $50 million for reassessment," Becker said. "The taxpayers have the right to know where their money went, why their reassessment wasn't done properly and why they cannot rely on the value placed on their home and that they will be taxed correctly."

When Democrats were in control of the legislature, Becker had asked then-Presiding Officer Diane Yatauro to hold a hearing into reassessment to determine if the county had received its money's worth. But Yatauro denied the request, saying Jankowski was appointed by then-County Executive Thomas Suozzi to fix the assessment system problems.

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