(MINEOLA, N.Y.) – With a March 1 deadline looming for property owners to grieve their assessment, Nassau County Legislators Debra Mulé (D – Freeport) Carrié Solages (D – Lawrence) and Joshua Lafazan (D – Woodbury) today demanded answers from the Blakeman administration in the aftermath of a series of major tax bill errors, its decision to freeze assessed property values for a third consecutive year, and the financial harm it will cause to residents who are currently over-assessed.
During a Thursday, Feb. 9 press conference at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building, the legislators noted that the public has heard many promises from the administration but witnessed little action to address the issue.
“Before he became County Executive, Mr. Blakeman vowed to rescind the increases that he blamed on the recent reassessment - Nassau County’s first in nearly a decade. What did County Executive Blakeman do when he took office? He didn’t just break his promise to roll back the reassessment – he froze our tax rolls for a third consecutive year,” Legislator Mulé said. “Every year the administration freezes the assessment rolls, the system gets more badly broken. It is simply unfair – and Nassau residents deserve a real plan for the future.”
Continuously freezing the tax rolls harkens back to the Mangano-era playbook which resulted in an eight-year freeze that destroyed the integrity and accuracy of Nassau’s assessment system. While frozen rolls enrich the same politically connected law firms that contributed more than $510,000 to Nassau County Republicans from 2021 through 2022 this largesse came – and will come again - at the expense of Nassau property owners who did not grieve their assessments and had the tax burden disproportionately shifted onto their properties. This impact is especially harmful to Nassau’s communities of color, where grievance rates are historically lower.
“We as a team representing the great people of Nassau County believe that our assessment system is broken – and our County Executive has done nothing to fix this system,” Legislator Solages said. “They were at the forefront, if you remember, under the administration of Laura Curran, criticizing her for each and every move – and now that they’re in the County Executive’s office and have the majority, I hear nothing but crickets. Nassau homeowners are suffering, and we are here speaking up on behalf of them.”
To protect property owners from future exploitation by the tax certiorari firms, New York State Senator Kevin Thomas has introduced state legislation that would cap the fees that firms can charge property owners for a successful grievance at 25 percent and require firms to inform prospective clients that they have the right and ability to grieve their assessment without hiring an outside service.
“Nassau County homeowners deserve transparency and protections when choosing to grieve their assessments. I join the Nassau Legislature’s Minority Caucus in demanding swift action from the County Executive to address the harms of the broken grievance process,” Senator Thomas said. “We believe in fighting to make Nassau County more affordable for everyone at all levels of government, which is why I proudly introduced legislation to cap excessive fees charged by grievance firms and ensure the process is more honest and straightforward. We must make it easier for homeowners to get the relief they are entitled to receive.”
Public trust in the County Executive’s handling of assessment issues was further undermined by a series of major avoidable tax bill errors. Last fall, the Minority Caucus revealed that 842 homeowners received inaccurate school tax bills. Although the acting assessor promised us that there would be no more mistakes, the same homeowners nearly got hit with the same errors on their general tax bills this January until the Minority Caucus flagged them. As all of this was occurring, Notre Dame Parish, a tax-exempt Catholic church in New Hyde Park, received nearly $1.2 million in erroneous tax bills – one in the fall, and another this January after being told the problem was fixed.
“These are just the latest examples of the empty promises and unacceptable errors that continue to erode the public’s trust in our assessment system and the Blakeman administration,” Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Kevan M. Abrahams (D – Freeport) said. “If his administration was truly serious about fulfilling his pledge to ‘fix’ our assessment system, he would have ordered a return to routine reassessments. Instead, he froze the tax rolls for yet another year – and that means if you’re over-assessed, you’ll be stuck paying more than your fair share unless you successfully grieve your assessment. While that may be good for the politically connected tax certiorari firms, it is tremendously unfair to tens of thousands of Nassau County property owners.”
Cognizant of the errors that have already been identified and the inherent inequities of a frozen roll, Legislators Mulé, Solages and Lafazan urged County Executive Blakeman to extend the tax grievance filing deadline to at least Monday, April 3.
County Executive Blakeman’s most recent assessment decisions and the avoidable tax bill errors are the latest in a series of broken promises and egregious mistakes that have harmed Nassau taxpayers, including:
- Promising to return a $128-million surplus, achieved through conservative budgeting by a Democratic administration, to Nassau taxpayers in tax cuts. While County Executive Blakeman’s FY 2023 budget does not cut taxes, it does include a 12 percent raise for himself the next two years.
- County Executive Blakeman vowed to roll back all increases that he blamed on the County’s most recent reassessment. To date, he has rolled nothing back; instead, he froze the tax rolls, allowing major campaign contributors at tax certiorari firms to exploit a broken system at the expense of overcharged Nassau taxpayers.
- With no long-term plan or vision to speak of, County Executive Blakeman has failed to hire a qualified assessor to lead the Department of Assessment.
- Amidst this leadership vacuum, 842 homeowners received shockingly incorrect school and general tax bills because the five-year phase-in of the most recent reassessment was not correctly implemented on their bills. Separately, Notre Dame Parish, a nonprofit Catholic church in New Hyde Park, has to date received nearly $1.2 million in erroneous tax bills. Nassau taxpayers will be on the hook for at least $3 million to correct these errors under the County Guaranty.
Click here to see a recording of the news conference.
PHOTO CAPTION – From left, New York State Senator Kevin Thomas and Legislators Carrié Solages, Debra Mulé and Joshua Lafazan at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building on Thursday, Feb. 9.
PHOTO CREDIT – Office of the Nassau County Legislature Minority Caucus