Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano lost a major battle last week when the state’s highest court ruled that he would not get away with shifting the cost of property tax refunds to the county’s school districts.
By some estimates the cost of these refunds could run as high as $450 million.
In a unanimous decision that will have impact throughout the state, the State Court of Appeals ruled that the county’s repeal of the “county guaranty” violated the state Constitution. Without the “guaranty,” the county could put the burden of paying the tax refunds based on its erroneous assessments on the school districts.
The court did not deny that the school districts were the beneficiaries of more than 80 percent of the county’s mistake. Instead it ruled that the county violated the state Constitution by repealing a law set by the Legislature in 1948 at Nassau County’s request. Under this guaranty, the county sets the taxable value for all properties in the county and is held responsible for that assessment.
Local Democrats are grinning ear to ear. They argue that Mangano’s “reforms” are nothing but gimmicks that, in this case, dumped the county’s financial problems on the schools. The school districts, already underfunded, can breathe a sigh of relief.
The schools may have dodged a bullet; however the ruling once again leaves the county in troubled financial waters.
The Mangano administration should have realized that this “reform” would be challenged and should be prepared for the consequences of this decision.
Without question this is a major blow.
Mangano’s challenge now is to make certain that the accounting mistakes that led to the inaccurate assessments are addressed and not repeated.