The Nassau County assessment system is so complex that even experts have to triple-check their facts, and New York Senate Democrats, even ones from Nassau, are not experts.
So it’s surprising that when they put a plan in their budget proposal this week to help the county with its reassessment troubles by kicking in more than $200 million in state money via matching funds, they didn’t consult county officials.
“We just received this bill at 5 p.m. on Tuesday,” County Executive Laura Curran told The Point Wednesday afternoon. “It was not discussed with us prior to that. I have requested more supporting information in order to better understand the bill.”
It seems that Nassau County’s Democratic senators and their conference leaders, looking for a popular play after a rough two months that included staying largely silent as the Amazon deal fell apart and failing to get a permanent tax cap, were freelancing.
Curran, a Democrat, is spearheading the first attempt to build an accurate assessment roll since her predecessor, Republican Edward Mangano, froze the roll and started granting automatic assessment reductions to nearly anyone who appealed for them eight years ago. The freeze created a huge imbalance, as those who grieved their taxes each year saw their taxes reduced further and further below what they owed and those who did not grieve saw their taxes increased further and further above what they owed. A Newsday investigation pegged the shift at $1.7 billion.
Curran argues that an immediate shift to everyone paying exactly what they owe would increase the taxes of repeated grievers too quickly. Coming around the same time as the new $10,000 federal limit on deductions for state and local income and property taxes really starts to hurt, there is a fear that huge increases would destabilize the county and its real estate market.
So Curran asked the State Legislature to approve a five-year phase-in to partly slow the increase of the burden for those who’ve been underpaying and the decrease for those who’ve been overpaying. Even so, the reassessment has proven to be political poison for anyone projected to get an increase, and Curran’s Republican opposition has made significant hay with their fears.
The Senate plan would slow even further the rate at which those underpaying see increases, by using county sales taxes and a 3-to-1 match from the state to grant this relief. Yet it would do nothing to speed the decreases for those who will continue to overpay.
It’s highly unlikely that the New York City-centric Assembly would agree to send another $200 million to one of the richest counties in the United States when it got a $100 million state bailout in 2000, and New York State is looking under couch cushions for change as it is. Cast in that light, the proposal appears to be a classic one-house budget goodie, intended to curry favor even if it can’t pass.