Democratic members of the Nassau County Legislature on Monday blocked a bill to hold a November voter referendum aimed at making the county assessor elected rather than appointed.
The Legislature’s Republican majority needed 13 votes to override Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s veto of the bill, but only received the votes of the 11 Republicans. All eight Democratic legislators voted against the override.
Since 2008, the county assessor has been appointed by the county executive, with approval from the Legislature. If the override had passed, a referendum would have been held in November to allow for public input on the matter. If the referendum had passed, the county assessor role would have been on the primary ballot in June 2022.
Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) has long criticized the countywide reassessments introduced by Curran as a result of the previous Republican administration’s freezing of the tax rolls for eight years. The freeze had resulted in large numbers of homes and properties having uneven and unfair valuations.
“After the mistakes and errors that have plagued the reassessment process and resulted in tax increases to 65% of homeowners, the right decision would have been to allow Nassau residents to decide if they wanted an assessor who can be held accountable by the people,” Nicolello said.
Officials announced in January that former county Assessor David Moog, who was hired by the county in June 2018, took on a new advisory role in the county’s budget office for health reasons.
Curran appointed Robin Laveman, chairperson of the county’s Assessment Review Commission, to replace Moog. If the Legislature approves Curran’s appointment, it would make Laveman the first woman to hold the position in the department’s history.
Laveman has served as chairperson for the review commission, which considers challenges to the values set by the Department of Assessment, since 2015. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in management from Binghamton University before attending law school at Hofstra University.
While Curran touted Laveman’s experience, Nicolello and the legislative majority claim Laveman “does not have the necessary qualifications as determined by the County Executive’s criticism of past assessors.”
Republican officials said Laveman’s lack of certification from the International Institute of Assessing Officers was concerning. According to the county’s charter, an assessor has 36 months within beginning a term as county assessor to become certified. Other requirements for the county assessor include a degree from an accredited four-year college and one year of “satisfactory full-time paid experience in an occupation involving the valuation of real property.”
Republican officials said the people should decide who should lead the ongoing reassessment, which has resulted in property tax increases to 65 percent of county homeowners.
“It is clear from the county executive’s attempt to appoint someone who lacks assessing experience and certifications that the only question is whether Nassau’s Assessor will be elected and responsive to the people or a political appointee as the county executive wants,” Nicolello said.
“While the County Executive is focused on distributing life-saving vaccines to protect residents and boost our economic recovery, the Republican Majority remains focused on playing politics with property assessment,” County spokesperson Michael Fricchione said. “The GOP is deliberately stalling on the appointment of a new County Assessor – kicking the can down the road as they’ve done for years.”