A major problem with the Nassau County assessment system is that it encourages homeowners to take advantage of the dozens of fliers from firms that specialize in appeals, especially when 87 percent of appeals are successful ["Cleaning up the assessment mess," Opinion, Oct. 16].
Who gets hurt? Everyone except these firms! They submit almost 90 percent of the appeals that are filed, and then take half of the first year's tax savings in payment! In effect, every other homeowner pays the fee to these firms, because each time a property owner gets a reduced tax bill, other taxpayers must make up the difference.
That's the primary reason why average tax rates in Nassau County school districts are more than double the taxpayer-approved increase. If the Nassau County assessor would adjust everyone's assessment annually to reflect true property value, individuals would not have to pay exorbitant fees, and the burden of assessment appeals would not be shifted from the county to the school districts.
The alternative is for every homeowner to file an annual appeal for a proper assessment, dramatically increasing county costs, further benefiting firms that specialize in this ridiculous charade and hurting everyone else.
Phil Heckler, Hicksville
Editor's note: The writer is the president of the Hicksville school board.
It's my understanding that the owners of roughly 150,000 residences grieved their assessment by utilizing the services of tax grievance companies and law firms, and that a far greater number, about 240,000 homeowners, elected not to grieve their assessment. Presumably those who chose not to grieve believed that the county had fairly assessed their homes, meaning that the assessed values were close to the fair market value.
In essence, the county for the foreseeable future has two tax rates: one for those who filed grievances, and one for those who didn't. The goal of assessment is to ensure that like-valued houses pay equivalent taxes.
This situation could have been avoided. Once the county became aware that the .0025 tax equalization rate that it was utilizing was no longer an accurate number, the Department of Assessment could have corrected the equalization rate on all houses to .0019, rather than have the Assessment Review Commission do so only for those that filed grievances. Had that occurred, homeowners who did not grieve because they thought their homes were fairly assessed would not have been penalized.
Jeffrey B. Gold, Bellmore
Editor's note: The writer is a former member of the Nassau County Board of Assessors and a former commissioner of the Nassau County Assessment Review Commission.
Hempstead schools shortchange 'corridor'
Hempstead Village and the surrounding communities of color, now known as the corridor, are under attack ["Consultant draws fire," News, Oct. 11]. President George W. Bush once referred to weapons of mass destruction. The weapons targeting the black and Latino communities of Nassau County are drugs, educational failure and guns.
Despite some areas of need and signs of disparity, there was always the sense that people could improve their positions in life. No matter where you lived or what your home looked like, we all benefited from a first-rate education system.
However, the history of the Hempstead school district and its school board is filled with so much drama! With a responsibility to do our best, we have settled for a 38 percent graduation rate.
In the 1970s, there began a steady and determined influx of drugs -- first marijuana, and then the more addictive crack cocaine. As if that were not enough, the corridor is now confronted with gun violence among adolescents and young adults. Where are the guns coming from?
What can be done? What weapon awaits us down the road if we don't take a stand today? We must stand for our community; we must stand for our children.
Patricia Fulton, North Baldwin
Editor's note: The writer graduated in 1969 from Hempstead High School.
Debt amendment and the Civil War
In response to former Chief Judge Sol Wachtler, I believe he has misinterpreted the 14th Amendment ["It's in the Constitution: Pay our debts," Opinion, Oct. 11].
The line he quotes, "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned" refers to the validity of the debt. No one from either political party is claiming that the debt is invalid.
However, the judge leaves out the next line, which reads, "But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void."
This is saying that debts of the Union are valid, and debts of the Confederacy are invalid. Why else would there be a need for this section of the amendment? Issuing more debt to pay off other debts is not considered paying your bills.
Robert Dirmeir Jr., Baldwin