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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  October 31, 2007
MEDIA CONTACT:  Randolph Yunker  (516) 571-5048

LEVINSON:  “DESPITE MALICIOUS ELECTION-YEAR POSTURING,
SCHOOL SPENDING IS INCREASING TAXES, NOT ASSESSMENTS!”

(Mineola, NY)  While most Americans will be turning back their clocks on November 4th, there are those running for office in Nassau County who would have you turn your calendars back to 2003 to have you believe it is the first year of court-ordered residential reassessment.

“In a desperate attempt to create and exploit taxpayer confusion and misunderstanding of assessment issues and property taxes, some town and county officials running for re-election (including my own legislator, Vincent Muscarella) would have you believe that reassessment is causing school property tax increases,” stated Board of Assessors Chairman Harvey Levinson.  “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Unfortunately, according to Chairman Levinson, a number of county legislators led by Peter Schmitt (whose school property tax bill increased by only $37.66 from last year) are trying to equate the school property tax shift that was experienced by homeowners in October 2003 to increases in spending being imposed by municipalities, schools and special taxing districts in 2007. 

“In 2003, Nassau’s unfair and archaic 1938 construction-based assessment system was replaced with a completely opposite market-based system that measured the value of homes based on real estate sales,” stated Chairman Levinson.  “Given the fact that the 2007-2008 Assessment Roll is no longer under the jurisdiction of the court and that I have restored the six percent cap on assessment increases from this point forward, officials who now blame assessment increases for higher property taxes are being disingenuous, politically malicious, and irresponsible. 

“One needs only to look at towns in Suffolk County (that did not conduct a reassessment for decades) to see that their homeowners are facing the same property tax crisis as their neighbors in Nassau,” Levinson continued.  “Even though the assessed values of homes in Suffolk remained the same in many of the towns for decades, school property tax obligations soared.  In short, assessment increases are not causing higher taxes; it’s the spending, plain and simple.”

Chairman Levinson also chided Republican legislators for their misuse of taxpayer money to produce and mail – what can only be seen as a political brochure – to promote their “unlawful”
assessment freeze proposal to create an issue only weeks before Election Day.  “It’s amazing that from February 1, 2000 to September 24, 2007, my legislator (Muscarella) issued 146 press releases,” Levinson remarked.  “The one and only time that he ever mentioned assessment is when he adopted the “Party’s line” in July 2007.  As a matter of fact, his website shows that he had nothing to say about any topic in 2006.”

“The volatility associated with the 2003-04 school property tax bills that occurred prior to my election as Chairman of the Board of Assessors,” according to Mr. Levinson, “is over!”

Levinson went on to note that the proportionately small number of homes with school tax increases last year were a direct result of improvements and renovations (as reflected in building permits issued by the Town) and a loss of exemptions, as required by law. 

 “Thanks to increases in the amount of this year’s STAR rebate checks and smaller school budget increases, an overwhelming number of homeowners are seeing hundreds of dollars in reductions off their school property tax bills this fall,” Levinson explained.  “Also, as of January 2, 2008, more than 75% (or over 273,000) of Nassau County homeowners will see decreases in market value assessments.

“Mr. Schmitt and the other legislators who are touting the assessment freeze proposal not only are ignorant of New York State Real Property Tax Law, but fail to understand that they are advocating the creation of a system that will be providing tax breaks for the rich at the expense of lower and middle class homeowners,” concluded Chairman Levinson.  “Over the past four years, the members of the Republican delegation ignored my invitations to meet to discuss my initiatives that have greatly improved the assessment rolls each year.  Clearly, as this year’s election rhetoric reveals, they would rather be obstructionists with simplistic sound-bites than partners in offering real solutions to addressing and reducing the real causes of property tax increases.  This is unfortunate.”

pdf file ORPS Ruling on the Assessment Freeze Proposal (pdf file)