Mangano Assessment Reforms Settle Claims Before Demanding Payment;
Maragos Releases Reports That Show A $35M Improvement, Yet More Work To Be Done
Limited Review of the Department of Assessment
Limited Review of the Nassau County Attorney Assessment Litigation Bureau Tax Certiorari Business Operations
Limited Review of Tax Certiorari Appraisal Reports of Real Property and Legislative Reform
Mineola, NY – To avoid further costly and time consuming litigation, Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano (center) today announced that the County has established a new process that will result in efficient and equitable treatment of all taxpayers. The process, established in coordination with the County Executive’s Residential Assessment Reform Team, includes an administrative review of assessments before the commencement of SCAR hearings. As such, this procedure will enable the County to conduct meaningful, good-faith settlement negotiations concerning residential assessments at the earliest possible stage. The Assessment Reform Team is comprised of Shalom Maidenbaum, Paola Orsini, Bob Orosz and William Wise.
Further, audits conducted by Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos (right) of the Nassau County Assessment Department and the County Attorney’s handling of the grievance and settlement process also found a $35 million improvement in 2010 over 2009 and lays out the challenges that still need to be addressed.
“We inherited an assessment system that was dysfunctional in every way,” said County Executive Mangano. “For the first time ever, Nassau County is settling tax grievances prior to demanding payment from our homeowners. These steps are transforming the broken property tax assessment system that left Nassau County in a fiscal mess.”
"In many cases, prior to the steps taken by the Administration, the accuracy of the County property assessment was not the fair market value and prior year errors were repeated year after year. At the same time the County Attorney’s office was understaffed and mismanaged to the point that it could not adequately defend the County,” Comptroller Maragos said. “We are pleased that the Mangano Administration has implemented many of our recommendations that save taxpayer dollars.”
For over a decade, Nassau County has failed to settle tax grievances before homeowners and commercial property owners paid their property taxes. This resulted in unneeded expense to the County an estimated $100 million in property tax refunds annually - $30 million of which is related to residential property tax refunds. The past failure to settle these grievances before tax bills were issued contributed toward the County borrowing over $1.3 billion to pay for tax refunds, costing taxpayers another a total of $250 million a year.
Fulfilling their pledge to residents, County Executive Mangano, Comptroller Maragos and the Republican Legislature have taken the following steps to improve the assessment system:
- Saved taxpayers $28 million through the implementation of a Residential Tax Grievance Negotiation and Settlement Program which reduces taxpayer liability from $30 million annually to under $2 million.
- Moved Nassau County from an annual to a four-year cyclical assessment system.
- Amended the Administrative Code of the County to enable the County to ensure refunds are equitably applied to each municipality.
To help residents understand Nassau’s assessment system, County Executive Mangano has introduced a
Residential Property Taxpayers' Bill of Rights which provides residents a right to:
- A fair and accurate assessment;
- Be assessed at an accurate and verified Level of Assessment;
- Have the Department of Assessment maintain the correct information about your property;
- Have your property tax assessment reviewed every single year, even if there is a cyclic assessment;
- Be treated with courtesy and respect by all involved in the assessment and assessment review process;
- An actual, meaningful administrative review of your application for correction and the right to know the basis for any administrative review determination;
- 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 by the County; and
- Represent yourself or to be represented by an attorney or other professional taxpayer representative in all aspects of the tax review process; and
- Be contacted by attorneys and representatives and to retain them at any time of the year so that you may be timely advised of your right to assessment review and preserve your rights accordingly.
Residential Assessment Review Team member Paola Orsini stated, “The implementation of the changes recommended by County Executive Mangano'sResidential Assessment Reform Team (ART) has led to a Taxpayers Bill of Right, the prompt review and correction of assessment challenges before a tax refund situation occurs. The result is a more professional relationship between the county and its taxpayers, unprecedented under any other administration. This welcome change has already yielded dividends in the form of tangible savings to the county. I am honored to have been a part of this process.”
"I would like to thank County Executive Mangano for the opportunity to have served on the Residential Assessment Reform Team, whose work enabled a positive outcome for the homeowners of Nassau County,” added Residential Assessment Review Team member Bob Orosz.
County Executive Mangano has made reforming Nassau’s property tax assessment system a top priority. This broken tax system costs the average home and business owners 28% more annually on their County property tax bill and has resulted in $1.6 billion in debt and outstanding liabilities owed by Nassau County taxpayers.
Additionally, the audits conducted by Comptroller George Maragos verified the inclusion public buildings, that are tax exempt, on the tax roll. The Comptroller’s office found a system which was inefficient and costly to taxpayers. Over assessments were found in six out of seven case studies and the former County Attorney’s office was found to be mismanaged and unable to adequately defend the County in cases that went to court.
The Comptroller’s review also found that the new methodology used to determine residential values for the 2012-13 tentative roll corrected some significant past errors but has not fully solved accuracy issues as market conditions increased the inequity by shifting valuations to mid-tier properties. The Comptroller found high-end property valuations to be inconsistent and manual errors not uncommonly causing arbitrary and unexplained reductions or increases in property values outside the modeling processes.
"A prime example of human error occurred with 1550 Old Country Road, a government building, which was erroneously placed on the tax rolls under the prior administration, creating a $1.2 million tax liability to the County.” Maragos added. “These errors underscore the need for additional reforms and action by Nassau County.”
Significant findings from the audits of the Department of Assessment and the County Attorney’s Assessment Litigation Bureau and Appraisal process include:
- The new assessment methodology was not independently reviewed by either the New York State Office of Real Property Services or an independent valuation expert.
- The Assessment staff lacked sufficient knowledge of the computerized assessment mass appraisal system. During the course of our review we found disagreement as to whether additional training is needed, flaws need to be corrected or, going forward another software system should be used for valuation.
- There is a lack of adequate segregation of duties, a key element of effective internal control. In one area of the Assessment Department, employees were entering their supervisor’s initials as the reviewer and approver on transactions within the computerized appraisal system known as IAS/ADAPT.
- The County Attorney’s Office lacked a Case Management System and documented policies and procedures. The Bureau was unable to produce management reports from the system that could be used to track cases and operating efficiencies.
County Executive Mangano and Acting Assessor Jim Davis have implemented reforms to the Department of Assessment’s day-to-day operations. As such, all court-ordered and Assessment Review Commission reductions are now used to establish the assessed value of homes throughout the County. Furthermore, improved assessment procedures and controls have been implemented to assure work product quality. The department has employed a comprehensive training program for assessment personnel and established strict guidelines to ensure that market models are accurate and defendable.
Continuing his efforts to save taxpayers millions in 2012, County Executive Mangano directed the County Attorney, DOA and ARC to begin settlement negotiations with commercial (class 4) and multiple-dwelling (class 2) property owners. Property owners can appeal their assessment online at https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/wps51/portal/AROW.
County Executive Mangano and County Comptroller Maragos are pleased with the progress made and look forward to working toward even greater improvements for taxpayers in the future.