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Letter: Nassau needs assessment law change

The Nassau County Assessor's office in Mineola.

The Nassau County Assessor's office in Mineola. Credit: Charles Eckert

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.