Majority demands audit for alleged errors in assessment phase-in

Robert Pelaez
Members of the Legislative Majority demanded an audit be conducted of alleged errors in the county's assessment phase-in on Monday. (Photo courtesy of the Legislative Majority)

Republican legislators in Nassau County on Monday called for an audit of alleged errors in tax bills that resulted in more than $16 million in overbilling.

Majority officials claim that the alleged errors in the county’s five-year reassessment phase-in could reach $50 million in overbilling if not corrected. Officials claim the overbilling of more than 16,000 homes throughout the county was caused by an error in calculating the assessed values of properties.

Republican leaders also referred to previous errors made by the county’s Assessment Department in the 2020 tentative tax roll. As a result of the errors, officials claim, the 2020 assessed valuation for affected properties exceeded the state’s 6 percent statutory cap on how much a property’s value can increase in a year.

Majority Legislators John Ferretti and Bill Gaylor demanded that an audit be conducted  and criticized Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and her administration for the handling of the assessment phase-in.

“The County Executive originally touted this as the fairest reassessment ever, indicating that there would be little need for property tax assessment challenges under the new property values,” Gaylor said. “However, even the Administration now realizes how badly flawed the project has been, actually encouraging the public to challenge their assessments.”

“An audit needs to take place in order to restore public trust in the County Executive’s botched reassessment process,” Ferretti said. “At the same time, I think we clearly need a comprehensive audit to substantiate the extent of the mistake and to recommend steps to remediate the problem, as well as a corrective action plan to prevent the recurrence of mistakes that are costing our taxpayers hard-earned money.”

Over the summer, Republican officials cited several properties throughout Nassau County that were subject to paying thousands in property taxes in the 2019-20 tax year, but said records indicated that their owners did not pay or saw significant decreases in property taxes in the following year.

A waterfront Kings Point property valued at more than $3.7 million, officials said, was subject to $21,000 in property taxes a year before the reassessment was introduced, but paid no property taxes in the 2020-21 tax roll. A Point Lookout property, they said, was subject to more than $31,000 in the 2019-20 tax year, but also went without paying a cent in property taxes the following year.

Despite claims of an erroneous assessment from Republican legislators, county spokesperson Michael Fricchione said the majority is incorrect and touted the work Curran has done to cut taxes and provide financial relief for Nassau homeowners.

“The Legislative Majority is being dishonest in an attempt to distract residents from the fact that our county executive is proposing to reduce taxes by $150 million over the next four years and is about to send out thousands of relief checks to our senior citizens, veterans and residents in need,” Fricchione said in a statement to Blank Slate Media.

Curran, a Democrat seeking re-election this year, said her $3.5 billion proposed budget for 2022 aims to cut property taxes by $70 million next year. She credited the county’s fiscal responsibility over the last few years, noting that surpluses of $145 million and $128 million in the 2019 and 2020 budgets, respectively, will allow the county to cut taxes in 2022.

The Legislature also passed Curran’s measure to provide eligible homeowners  with direct payments of $375 due to the hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic on Monday. Curran said the payments will go to up to 400,000 households.

“Nassau County’s finances are in the best shape they have been in decades thanks to fiscal discipline by my Administration,” Curran said in a statement. “This allows us to push funding from the American Rescue Plan back to our residents and businesses. These direct payments will not only help those who continue to struggle, but also provide a meaningful boost to our local economy.”

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