Taxes a major issue for Nassau homeowners: poll

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The Nassau County Executive and Legislative Building is seen in Mineola. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

Nassau County homeowners think taxes are the county’s most pressing issue and do not trust either major political party to serve their interests, according to a poll conducted last month.

Some 65 percent of the 800 surveyed homeowners who are likely to vote in this year’s countywide election chose taxes as the most important issue facing the county, according to the poll conducted by The Parkside Group, a Manhattan political consulting firm, from May 18 to 21.

Roads and traffic problems are the second most pressing issue, with 13 percent of respondents choosing it, followed by public corruption with 11 percent, according to poll results obtained by Blank Slate Media.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties are viewed unfavorably by half the respondents, and more than half said they do not trust either party to stand up for their best interests, the poll results show.

The Maidenbaum Property Tax Reduction Group, a Cedarhurst-based firm that handles appeals of Nassau residents’ property tax bills, commissioned the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.46 percent.

The poll only surveyed people who own homes, so it does not reflect the opinions of Nassau’s total electorate. Homeowners comprise about 80 percent of Nassau’s residents, according to the most recent available U.S. Census data.

“The findings of the survey reinforce what we already know: property taxes are a crushing burden on Nassau County homeowners and those homeowners will aggressively protect their rights to avoid paying more than is legally required,” Shalom Maidenbaum, the founder of Maidenbaum Property Tax Reduction Group, said in a statement.

The survey suggests that local tax policy remains a major issue for Nassau voters this year as they cast ballots for the county’s top three executive offices and all county Legislature seats, despite the fact that most political discourse has focused on public corruption following the indictment of Edward Mangano, the current Republican county executive, on federal corruption charges.

In addition to indicating the homeowners’ priorities, it shows that most are unfamiliar with the three candidates for county executive but have a clear distaste for Mangano.

Only 29 percent of those surveyed said they view Mangano favorably, while 60 percent said they view him unfavorably.

Mangano is reportedly considering a run for a third term, but has not decided whether to do so.

Maidenbaum and Parkside declined to comment on the poll results as they relate to political candidates.

But Evan Stavisky, a Parkside partner, said they show that homeowners use their rights to appeal their property tax bills and “aggressively hold public officials accountable at the ballot box if they infringe” on those rights.

These are political realities that every candidate running for office in Nassau County, regardless of party, needs to understand,” Stavisky said in a statement. “Ignoring the overwhelming opinion of Nassau County homeowners voting in November is a recipe for losing an election.”

Michael Dawidziak, a Sayville political strategist who works mostly with Republicans, said taxes have been Long Island voters’ top issue for decades, but that does not mean they will necessarily drive the results of the election.

“You can get 90-something percent of the people to agree on something. That doesn’t mean that’s what they vote on,” Dawidziak said.

The results show that taxes are a major concern for homeowners and that they are unhappy with Nassau’s current state of affairs.

Nearly all respondents — 97 percent — think property taxes are too high, the poll found. Nearly half — 48 percent — think the county is headed in the wrong direction. And 72 percent said they agree that Nassau is in “poor fiscal health.”

Some 23 percent have favorable views of Jack Martins, the former Republican state senator running to replace Mangano, while 8 percent view him unfavorably. Some 69 percent had no opinion of him or did not answer the question.

County Legislator Laura Curran, the Nassau Democratic Committee’s choice for county executive, is viewed favorably by 13 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 4 percent. Some 83 percent had no opinion of her or did not respond.

George Maragos, the Democratic county comptroller and Curran’s primary challenger, is viewed favorably by 16 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 13 percent. Some 71 percent had no opinion or did not respond.

The poll follows a major Newsday report earlier this year that showed Mangano’s reforms to the property tax system have shifted $1.7 billion of the county’s property taxes from residents who appeal their property tax bills to those who do not.

Newsday also reported in 2015 that the seven largest property tax appeals firms helped shape Mangano’s property tax policies and donated more than $1.2 million to his campaigns.

Maidenbaum Property Tax Reduction Group and two other companies, along with Maidenbaum himself, have given thousands of dollars to Mangano’s campaigns and made smaller donations to other officials from both political parties.

Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Mangano, defended the county executive’s record in a statement.

“While we have not reviewed the poll, the County Executive Mangano is proud of his record which includes freezing property taxes 6 out of 7 years, achieving the lowest unemployment rate in the region by creating 25,000 new jobs and reducing crime to the lowest level since statistics were first recorded,” Nevin said.

Spokespeople for the Democratic county executive candidates said the issues of high taxes and public corruption are linked.

Jeff Guillot, Maragos’ campaign spokesman, said the poll highlights the need for Maragos’ proposed reforms, such as a ban on political contributions by county contractors and public financing of election campaigns.

“We all care about taxes,” Philip Shulman, Curran’s campaign spokesman, said. “And high taxes and corruption go hand in hand, because all Nassau residents pay a corruption tax to bankroll Ed Mangano’s endless patronage, broken contracting system, and pay-to-play culture.”

E. O’Brien Murray, Martins’ campaign strategist, said the poll results bode well for Martins, who supported the state’s cap on property tax increases and stripping pensions from public officials convicted of felonies.

“After being in the race for only two months, more voters have heard of Jack Martins and like what they hear,” Murray said.

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