Members of the Republican majority in the Nassau County Legislature introduced legislation last Friday that they said would clarify “deceptive” assessment notices.
“We are here this morning to discuss a mailing that the county sent out. It is a confusing, misleading mailing that has upset thousands of Nassau County residents,” Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said.
The Assessment Review Commission (ARC) has sent out misleading notices entitled a “Notice of Settlement,” to thousands of homeowners who are receiving no reduction of their assessments, Nicolello said.
These notices are not an offer of settlement, Nicolello said. They are in effect rejections of challenges, Nicolello said. This “confusing language” could lead homeowners to accept an offer of settlement that is, in reality, a rejection, thereby waiving their rights to challenge the commission’s determination.
In response, Christine Geed, spokeswoman for County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, said that the Nassau GOP previously had no issues with the notices, which Geed said have not changed since Edward Mangano’s reign as county executive.
“This group of Republican Legislators did nothing for almost a decade except support Ed Mangano’s corrupt assessment system and had no issue with this exact notice when it was sent to residents during his administration,” Geed said in an email message. “Nassau residents are too smart to fall for this. This is another attempt by the GOP Majority to trick taxpayers into thinking they care when they have proven they don’t.”
According to Nicolello, the legislation will do three things.
First, it would require letters offering no reduction to be termed a “Preliminary Determination Notice” instead of “Notice of Settlement.”
Second, it would include within that mailing a prominent disclaimer that the mailing is not the ARC’s “Final Determination,” to make it clear to homeowners that there will be a further communication that will actually trigger their right to appeal, Nicolello said.
Nicolello said there is no clear explanation of what Nassau residents’ rights are when they receive these assessment notices.
Third, it would ensure that residents, who were misled into signing a “Notice of Settlement” with zero reduction, will still have a right to appeal, Nicolello said.
“You cannot call something a settlement when there has not been a reduction,’ Nicolello said.
In a statement, Danny Schrafel, spokesman for the legislature’s Democratic minority, said, “After 10 long years in the Majority, if they felt this was a truly meaningful bill, they wouldn’t have waited until three weeks before Election Day to file it.”
Nicolello said that the legislation has been introduced and is in committee. He said that the majority has the votes, but that the majority has not spoken with the minority about the legislation.
“We cannot imagine anyone would be opposed to this,” Nicolello said. “This is not the way government should be operating and we need to be clear in our mailing.”