Nicolello, Republican Legislators Propose County Assessor Should Be Elected - New Assessor Would Be Directly Accountable to Taxpayers
Nassau County Legislature Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello and the Republican Legislative Caucus announced that they are proposing a local law to establish the position of elected County Assessor. In the face of an error-riddled property tax reassessment process that has been administered by County Executive Laura Curran’s hand-picked Assessor, Nicolello declared that Nassau’s homeowners deserve an opportunity to decide if they want to replace the current appointee with an elected official. The Legislators said that an elected assessor is necessary to provide transparency and public accountability. Also present at the announcement was Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Donald X. Clavin, a vocal critic of the current property tax reassessment project.
“All of the County Legislators have recognized that the assessment system was broken and needed to be fixed, and that is why we authorized the funding requested by the County Executive to embark upon her signature reassessment project,” said Nicolello. “Laura Curran started the reassessment with her hand-picked assessor to oversee the project. Unfortunately, the process has been distinguished by an embarrassing string of errors, miscues and fumbles, and Nassau homeowners are literally paying the price for this badly-botched project. Laura Curran’s Assessor, David Moog, is only answerable to the County Executive and has ‘zero accountability’ to our residents. Accordingly, the Republican members of the County Legislature are calling for the position of elected assessor to be presented to Nassau’s voters for consideration in order to restore trust, transparency, and accountability to the Assessor’s Office.”
The proposed local law provides for the election of an assessor in 2021, pending the successful passage of a public referendum on the matter on the November of 2019 ballot. The elected assessor would hold a four-year term and will be on the ballot with other county-wide officials. Further, the assessor would be required to be a resident of Nassau County, and serve in the position full time. The County Assessor would be compelled to attain credentials from New York State as a certified assessor after taking office, and then appoint deputy assessors who would possess requisite expertise in real property appraisal and assessment.
County Executive Laura Curran’s hand-picked Assessor, David Moog, has presided over a host of embarrassing errors in the Curran administration’s property tax reassessment project. Indeed, some homeowners have seen assessments skyrocket by as much as 200 percent and are facing projected property tax increases of 100 percent. Further, the tax rolls created by the Assessor, the basis upon town receivers of taxes issue tax bills, have been rife with “oops” worthy flubs. As a result, property owners have endured annoying tax bill over-charges. Even the Nassau County Executive’s appointment of an Assessment Department overseer to mentor the Assessor has not stemmed the tide of gaffs, miscues and flubs.
“Nassau County Executive Laura Curran claimed that she was going to fix Nassau’s Assessments,” observed Clavin. “However, she hasn’t even been able to fix her broken Assessment Department. In fact, the production of tax rolls, which is one of the basic functions of the Assessment Department, has been riddled with errors that have resulted in taxpayers being overcharged on tax bills. We need an elected assessor, one who will be accountable to the public, not one who covers-up blunders for the County Executive.”
Nicolello explained that the County Executive’s reassessment project has been shrouded in secrecy. While the officials have demanded that County Executive Laura Curran hold publicly advertised community meetings to explain the reassessment process and respond to questions, she has steadfastly refused. Instead, the County Executive has chosen to make sporadic, unannounced appearances at reassessment workshops that are being hosted by the County Legislators. Further, the Assessor has not provided detailed information on how new home values are being determined. In fact, it was recently revealed that the Laura Curran Administration blocked the release of details on how it developed its new property tax values, invoking an arcane “trade secrets” loophole in the law.
Nicolello, his Republican Legislative colleagues, and Clavin also detailed the ongoing errors that have plagued the County Executive’s reassessment project and undermined the public’s confidence in the accuracy and fairness of the project:
- Nassau’s County’ Assessor admitted to posting the wrong assessment roll in January of 2019, which included 18,400 errors in property tax assessments.
- 85,000 property tax assessments had to be reduced in January of 2019 due to errors.
- 60,000 property tax impact notices had to be corrected in November of 2018 because Assessor used preliminary home values instead of final values to calculate reassessment’s impact on taxes.
- 20,000 assessment disclosure notices had to be recalculated because the property tax assessment increases exceeded the state’s cap on maximum allowable assessment increases.
- It was discovered in February of 2019 that the incorrect tax grievance deadline appeared in over a dozen locations on the Assessment Department and the Assessment Review Commission websites.
- A December 2018 robo-call erroneously alarmed 400,000 Nassau senior citizens that they were in danger of losing their property tax exemptions.
- The Assessment Department’s January 2019 General tax roll was defective, resulting in veterans and senior citizens being overcharged on their tax bills.
- 20,000 Tax Impact Notices intended for homeowners were returned to the Assessment Department as undeliverable in late 2018.
- Newsday reported in December of 2018 that thousands upon thousands of homeowners did not receive their tax impact statements in a timely fashion.
- A host of other errors and snafus have plagued the reassessment project and tax rolls that have been generated by the Assessment Department, eroding public’s confidence and causing incorrect tax bills to be disseminated.
“The errors just keep on coming from the Nassau County Assessor, and County Executive Laura Curran has been unable to get control of reassessment process,” said Clavin. “Taxpayers are literally paying the price for these errors.”
The officials noted that an elected assessor would be accountable directly to the voters, serving at the pleasure of Nassau residents. Further, an elected assessor would not be doing the bidding of the County Executive, rather he or she would have the public’s priorities and interests as his or her only motivation in creating transparent, fair and accurate property values. Lastly, voters would have the recourse of electing a new assessor in the case of an assessor who failed to display competency and responsiveness.
“Nassau homeowners deserve to have a voice in deciding who serves as their County Assessor,” concluded the Presiding Officer. “The lack of transparency and rampant errors that have characterized the tenure of Laura Curran’s hand-picked Assessor demand that we step in and offer homeowners a better choice, a choice that will provide accountability and transparency.”