Nassau Saves $25M in Residential Tax Refunds, Overhead

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By Natasha Domanski


County Executive Edward Mangano announced on Wednesday that a system has been developed to end the accumulation of residential property tax assessment debt. The plan has saved the county up over $25 million this year in residential tax refunds, salary and overhead.


Mangano said by resolving last year’s residential property tax assessment grievances before school tax bills are issued in October, the County will cut its high cost of refunding overpaid property taxes. School taxes usually being the largest portion of property taxes even with STAR and GoldSTAR programs.


Residential liability was reduced in 2011 from $30 million to $2 million, but this year there will be zero liability for the first time in Nassau County’s history, according to Mangano’s office.  He added that 70 to 80 percent of assessments that were challenged were reduced.


“This is a tremendous victory,” Mangano said, reiterating that he believes the County will now have zero future debt liability for the 2012-13 assessment roll. “My Nassau County Assessment Reform Team (ART) has worked together in cooperation and through compromise to achieve this goal.”


So far, for the 2013/2014 tax year, 116,000 residential claims have been made, and an estimated one-third of those County residents’ claims have been approved, which equates to 70,000 residents who are still waiting to hear results.


The County Executive repeatedly stated that the assessment system for the County is a “relationship” model; meaning that residents need to take an equal initiative to partake in the savings.  Some in the Republican Legislative Majority have been holding, and plan to still hold community meetings to explain the method of savings, and the Legislature has been relying heavily of mailings to get the word out.  Five Towns Legislator Howard Kopel is hosting a community-wide meeting on the subject at the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library at 1125 Broadway on Tuesday, August 21 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.


To help residents understand Nassau’s assessment system, Shalom Maidenbaum and the ART recommended a Residential Property Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights which the Mangano Administration adopted, includes having a property tax assessment reviewed every single year, even if there is a cyclical assessment; having the Department of Assessment maintain the correct information about your property year after year; an administrative review of your application for correction and the right to know the basis for any administrative review determination; an appeal and administrative review determination at a Small Claims Review (SCAR) proceeding before a trained, professional and impartial state-appointed hearing officer; a full and fair SCAR hearing where you may contest both the value and Level of Assessment established; and finally you may be contacted by attorneys and representatives and retain them at any time of the year so that you may be advised in a timely manner of your right to assessment review and preserve your rights accordingly.


ART board member and property tax attorney Shalom Maidenbaum remarked that this is a progressive approach to assessing. “The historic reforms implemented by this administration have truly helped homeowners by ensuring they receive a correct home value before paying taxes,” he said.


Mangano’s ART team is also comprised of homeowner Bob Orosz of Garden City; Paola C. Orsini, President of Re-Assessment & Evaluation Systems Inc. and Trustee of Westbury Village William B. Wise.


Critics are looming over the reforms, saying that they are far from a salvation and trying to remind the public that it was just the end of July when County Comptroller George Maragos announced that the long-term liability for commercial property tax refunds is projected to grow to $336 million by the year end.  The office of Legislator Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) is standing their ground and saying that they’re focusing on the numbers.


“Once again we get twilight zone fantasies from Ed Mangano. Far from addressing the real problems in our assessment system — the outstanding liability of $336 million [in commercial refunds] that taxpayers will be on the hook for, or having any sort of plan to deal with commercial assessments, the bulk of refunds the county owes, at best he has put a cast on his pinkie toe when the entire leg is shattered,” Abrahams said. “ At the end of the day, the assessment system is worse under Mangano and he continues to do nothing of substance to really fix it.”


Legislator Francis Becker (R-Lynbrook) is firmly behind the County Executive’s statements.  He believes that this improvement on the assessment system could greatly benefit his community and eventually, the entire County.


“They are taking this flaw very seriously, and he’s [Edward Mangano] has had the courage to tackle it,” Becker said.  “It’s an amazing accomplishment that’s never been done before.”


Becker also said that he does plan to communicate to the residents in his community that this program is proactive, and that they must help themselves first by filing a grievance. “The old system had caused chaos not only for the homeowners, but for the County, as well,” he added.  “This will cause a more stable environment for everybody.”


Mangano added that correcting this system had been a goal of his even before he took office, and will now be looking forward to tackling commercial liability.


“The model we used in residential tax assessments could be made commercial, provided the county comes to an agreement with the commercial tax representatives” ART member Maidenbaum confirmed.  “As the County Executive said, it’s in the works.  I understand they have tripled the amount of commercial settlements since the past filing year, so they’re heading in the right direction in order to save the county tax refund liability and provide relief to commercial property owners. ”

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