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Letter: Nassau needs assessment law change

Former Nassau Assessor Harvey Levinson is correct that the county is ill-advised to reduce assessments for almost all property owners who challenge them ["A clear-cut way to assess property," Opinion, Jan. 3].

It's also correct that if a homeowner protests his or her assessment, and the claim is denied, the county cannot increase the assessment, even though comparables make it clear that the home is underassessed. Those who challenge their assessments only risk payment of a filing fee. Those who fail to challenge pay the difference.

Levinson alluded to a solution. There are only two special assessing districts in the state, New York City and Nassau County. This structure may work well for the five boroughs, because the city has one school district and one superintendent. Nassau County, however, has 44 school districts.

In the city, the Empire State Building and other large commercial properties help pay for schools citywide. In Nassau County, only the school districts fortunate enough to have shopping centers and other commercial properties within their bounds receive the tax benefits from them.

When it comes time to refund tax payments made by utility and commercial properties, the county must float bonds to obtain the funds for the reimbursement. All of the taxpayers in Nassau County must contribute, even though many do not live in the districts that benefit from the assessment of those properties.

Nassau needs to persuade the State Legislature to change its assessment system back to match that of other counties. That would be a good start to eliminate the unfairness of Nassau's school tax system.

Leo F. McGinity, Baldwin

Editor's note: The writer is a retired State Supreme Court judge who has written decisions on the assessment system.

Obama's policies, not race, at fault

President Barack Obama told a New Yorker interviewer that racial tensions may have softened his popularity among white voters in the past two years ["Obama cites race for lagging approval," News, Jan. 20]. I must heartily disagree.

It seems that when all else fails, play the race card. It is not race that is reflected in his popularity, but his policies. We have a no-growth economy thanks to his policies. He is anti-business. Unemployment is much higher than reported.

Obamacare is destroying the best health care system anywhere. It's time people wake up to what is happening before it's too late.

Donald Kustes, Westbury

Copiague schools making tough choices

A recent report from the state comptroller highlighted financial problems of various districts ["Schools' fiscal distress," News, Jan. 17]. Copiague was given a rating of "moderate fiscal stress."

Copiague is a low wealth-high need district. The school board made deliberate decisions to preserve student programs and keep tax-rate increases as low as possible during these tough economic times. To preserve programs, a variety of aggressive measures were implemented beginning in 2008 to contain and slow the growth of costs.

However, state aid to Copiague has been reduced to less than we received in 2008. On the expenditure side, we are dealing with many costs beyond the district's control, such as pension costs and health insurance premium increases.

The result is that, beginning three years ago, we decided to spend down our reserve funds to balance the budget. This was a major contributing factor to the stress rating.

With a number of school districts in a similar position, it's incumbent upon the governor and state legislators to restore state aid and finally address the many costly unfunded mandates that schools are required to carry out.

Mike Greb, Amity Harbor

Editor's note: The writer is president of the Copiague school board.

Newsday reported that my district of Copiague is under stress.

Stress is paying $9,000 in school taxes and another $6,000 in private school tuition each year because I won't send my children to a school with such a poor performance rating.

We tried it the teachers union way, and it's not working. Time to start to thinking outside of the box.

Frank Duci, Copiague

Science students deserve accolades

A letter takes issue with devoting two pages to semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search and goes on to state that school administrators should be prohibited from spending tax dollars to win science competitions ["Sharp division on science contests," Jan. 19].

It's mind-boggling to me -- when the need to encourage students in science, engineering, technology and math is so evident -- that anyone would deny these bright, talented, hardworking students the accolades they deserve.

In a society that glorifies and rewards athletes and celebrities with multimillion-dollar paychecks, why would we begrudge these dedicated students their day in the sun?

Michael Golden, Great Neck

Editor's note: The writer is a former public school teacher.