Curran will veto bill to hold referendum on electing assessor

Curran will veto bill to hold referendum on electing assessor
Moments after the controversial referendum was approved regarding electing a county assessor. (Photo courtesy of Nassau County Legislature)

The Nassau County Legislature on Monday approved a county-wide referendum on whether to switch to an elected tax assessor.

But County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, said she plans to veto the measure passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The county currently has an appointed assessor, which was voted on by residents in 2008.

“This legislation allows the public to decide whether Nassau will have an elected assessor or keep the current politically appointed assessor,” said Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park).

After much debate, the assessor referendum bill passed the Legislature 10-7. Two  of the 19 members were absent due to the holiday. All seven Democrats voted against the bill.

In a news release, Curran said: “I will veto any legislation by the Republican majority in the Nassau County Legislature to once again make the County Assessor an elected position. The proposed legislation doesn’t even require a qualified individual. We cannot turn one of the most vital services that the county provides – property assessment – into a political quagmire.”

Democrats accused Republicans of using this bill for political purposes. All 19 Nassau legislators are up for re-election this November, and Democrats said that a referendum would result in property taxes and reassessment issues being the first thing on voters’ minds.

Republicans called for this change in early March. Nicolello previously said that 80 budgeted positions in the Department of Assessment remain unfilled.

Nicolello has said that an elected assessor would be in charge of the office’s budget as well as filling the positions that remain empty.

The 11 Republicans on the board also said that this change is needed because reassessment of over 400,000 properties in the county has been riddled with errors.

A news release from Nicolello said other mistakes showed the need for a referendum. These include the assessment roll in January that included 18,400 errors in property tax assessments as well as a December robocall error that caused alarm for 400,000 seniors worried that they were in danger of losing their property tax exemptions.

“While I am hopeful that the County Executive will put politics aside to give the people a voice, should she veto, we will call a hearing as soon as possible to vote on an override,” said Nicolello.

Nicolello said that hundreds of residents have expressed confusion over parts of the reassessments, as well as how their property taxes have been calculated.

According to Newsday, William Biamonte, chief of staff for the Nassau Democrats, maintained that this bill stood to “inject additional partisan politics and bureaucracy into a process that demands only competence and professionalism.”

Democrats who weren’t present for the vote, such as Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, opposed the bill in previous meetings.

In order to override the veto, lawmakers will need a supermajority of 13 votes. This means that one Democrat would have to vote with the Republicans.

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