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No scare tactics on Nassau County property tax assessments

The Nassau County Department of Assessment in Mineola.

The Nassau County Department of Assessment in Mineola. Credit: Barry Sloan

Now that Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is trying to fix the county’s property tax assessment crisis, an admittedly painful process, the Republican-controlled legislature is suddenly motivated to protect the taxpayers. Some members of the legislature, anyway.

It’s a shame these concerns weren’t voiced when Edward Mangano was trashing the system as county executive from 2010 to 2017.

Curran, a Democrat, is creating an accurate tax roll. She also has ordered the assessment ratio for residential properties lowered from 0.25 percent to 0.10, leveling a playing field that had been tilted by reductions to below 0.25 granted to those who grieved their assessments. But correcting the huge, unfair gap in how much is paid by property owners who grieved and those who didn’t will create big increases and decreases in what people owe. So Curran is seeking state approval to phase in the tax increases for the underassessed and decreases for the overassessed over five years, to soften the rebalancing.

The county must send out notices Nov. 1 informing property owners of their new assessed values and ratios. That, Curran says, they can do. But Republican legislators want to pass a bill on Monday requiring that those notices also estimate property owners’ 2020 taxes. The county assessor said last week it would take at least seven weeks to get that right. And Curran’s administration says it will send out another notice then, even before the 2020 official property assessments are mailed Jan. 2, letting people know approximately what their taxes will be. That extra time also would let the county include in the notices how much taxes would change if Curran’s five-year phase-in is approved.

However, Presiding Officer Rich Nicollelo wants to keep the ratio at 0.25 and never increase any assessment more than 6 percent in a year, or 20 percent in five years, a plan that studies show would at best take decades to correct the imbalances. This week, he told a reporter that Curran’s plan “has exposed 95 percent of Nassau County residents to potentially ruinous tax increases,” which is entirely untrue.

The legislature could have battled for a legitimate system since Mangano broke it in 2010, and it never made a peep. Now it should give Curran a few weeks to get this right, and not terrify the taxpayers about a fix that absolutely has to be made. — The editorial board