Newsday sought to tell a complicated story about Nassau County’s assessment system but overlooked the root of the problem [“Separate & unequal,” News, Feb. 3]. The newspaper’s Dec. 16 editorial, “Nassau tax system out of control,” explained it: Nassau has been saddled with $1 billion in assessment debt, and my reforms have successfully slowed debt accumulation. Nassau’s system is governed by archaic state laws that must change if we are to fix county finances.
Assessment itself does not raise a dime more in taxes than a municipality or school district requests. Nassau collects taxes on behalf of these entities and apportions that tax accordingly. However, when a property owner grieves an assessment and a refund is due, schools and local governments keep every dollar they originally collected, and the county is left on the hook for money it never received.
No family or business could stay afloat if it refunded money it never received, and neither can Nassau. In fact, we are the only county treated this way under state law. This problem has cost taxpayers $100 million annually while accounting for much of the county’s debt. My reforms save $20 million annually, and further commercial property reforms being implemented now will save millions more.
Nassau’s $100 million problem is largely caused by commercial grievances. With $80 million in refunds going to commercial owners, homeowners in neighborhoods that don’t have significant commercial properties pay an unfair share of refunds.
A problem homeowners formerly faced was that once they successfully grieved their assessments, they were forced to fight again the next year to keep it at the reduced level. This changed when we implemented a four-year assessment freeze. Our plan was to reassess after four years, but superstorm Sandy interfered, as damaged homes would have caused a major shift in expenses to undamaged homes. Nevertheless, not updating every four years leads to variations in values between assessed and marketplace values. Updates will begin in 2018.
Edward Mangano, Mineola
Editor’s note: The writer is the Nassau County executive.