Legislators concerned about Curran’s assessment plan

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The Nassau County Legislative and Executive Building is seen in Mineola. (Photo by DanTD via Wikimedia Commons)

Both Republicans and Democrats in the Nassau County Legislature expressed concern this week over County Executive Laura Curran’s plan to fix the assessment system.

“I do support correcting the assessment system,” said Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove), noting that the county’s assessment rolls have not been updated in seven years. “But I think the trepidation comes from the fact that we haven’t seen first-hand data yet … maybe [Curran] should consider slowing down the process.”

On Monday, Nassau County Assessor David Moog went before the Nassau Legislature to testify about the effects of Curran’s recently implemented executive order. The executive order would set the class one level of assessment — which covers one-, two-, and three-family homes — at 0.1 percent of market value. That was a drop from 0.25 percent, which was set when Curran signed an executive order in March to restart the tax rolls.

But the administration decided to change course after research showed that it would be difficult for the county to win assessment challenges against wealthy homeowners under that plan.

The tax rolls have not been updated since 2011, and as a result the tax burden has shifted from Nassau residents who challenged their assessment to residents who did not.

County legislators are worried that the new plan could cause property taxes to rise too suddenly for some homeowners, rather than gradually rising to the appropriate level. On Monday, Moog warned that without state legislation spreading the assessment increases over a five-year period, some homeowners could see their property tax bills increase by 20 percent.

Both Curran and the Legislature want state legislation to spread out the increases, but Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said it was a mistake to leave that to the “politics of Albany.”

“Whether that [legislation] comes to pass is an open question,” he said, adding that the state Legislature would not look at it until January.

Nicolello said he agreed to the plan in March that Curran eventually abandoned in September. He said Curran “circumvented the tax cap” with the new 0.1 percent increase, which could lead to an increase “all at once.”

He also said there was nothing the Nassau Legislature could do to stop Curran from going ahead with the plan.

“She has the power, so we can’t make her go back to the earlier agreements,” he said. “Homeowners will have the opportunity to look at this, and express … what their feelings are for the whole process.”

They will be able to do that because the Legislature unanimously approved a bill that would require the assessor’s office to send notices by Nov. 15 to Nassau homeowners notifying them of the potential impact.

“[The assessor’s office] is sending out notices on Nov. 1 that show the fair value and assessed value, but won’t say what the tax impacts are,” Nicolello said. 

And that confusion about the tax impact extends to the Nassau legislators.

“I don’t know what impact it will have on people’s home values, and I don’t feel good about approving this without that information,” said DeRiggi-Whitton.

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at ltorrance@theislandnow.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

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