In the two years since Democratic Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and members of the Republican-controlled legislature last faced the voters, the county’s property-tax assessment woes have swallowed up remarkable energy in Mineola. Curran’s plan to raise the tax bills of homeowners who have been underbilled gradually over five years and lower the bills of those who’ve been overpaying — because of widespread grieving and preceding County Executive Edward Mangano’s assessment freeze — has generated tremendous controversy. And a flawed rollout by Curran’s administration has magnified taxpayer anxiety and anger.
But the reassessment will happen, and even Republicans who oppose Curran mostly concede they will have to support it eventually. Reassessment now is largely an operational issue. There will be a massive wave of challenges to the new values, and the county must handle them quickly and fairly, and in the process create a roll reliable enough to end the unique Nassau County culture of reflexive tax grievances.
In the next two years, the focus legislators have been expending on opposing reassessment would be better directed toward other crucial issues.
Republicans Richard Nicolello and Vincent Muscarella, the two remaining original members of the legislature established in 1996, say they are open to term limits paired with doubling legislator terms to four years. Both are good ideas: a limit of 12 years serves Suffolk County well, and four-year terms would give Nassau legislators more freedom to govern according to conscience rather than being in constant election mode.
County roads, sewers and other infrastructure need upgrades. Paying for the work presents tough budget challenges. Nassau has avoided property tax increases eight of the last nine years, which is admirable. But expenses keep going up, so new revenue must be found; deficits, although improving, persist. The books must be closer to balance before the state authority overseeing the county’s finances can end its control period. County labor unions arelooking for new contracts. Getting (and funding) deals fair to both taxpayers and workers will be thorny. Legislators have the voices and responsibility to demand good deals, and the voting oversight to stop bad ones.
The potential for Nassau County is unlimited.
But its fortunes and economy are complex, tied to New York City and the politics of Albany. It needs wise, less partisan leadership and an efficient, responsive and affordable government toattain a prosperous future and a high quality of life for residents. — The editorial board