Citing risks to the County’s finances and a history of unqualified elected assessors
deteriorating and corrupting Nassau County’s assessment system
(Mineola, NY) – Today, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran vetoed a local law proposed and passed by the Republican Majority in the Nassau County Legislature, by a vote of 10-7 along party lines, to establish an independently elected County Assessor. In her disapproval memorandum filed today, the County Executive cited risks to the County’s finances, a history of unqualified politician-assessors overseeing a dysfunctional assessment system in Nassau County, the accuracy of the recent reassessment endorsed by independent industry experts, and statewide trends for appointed assessors.
“I strongly oppose any effort to dismantle the progress we have made toward a more fair and equitable assessment roll and inject additional politics and bureaucracy into one of the most vital services that the County provides – property assessment,” said Curran. “County elected officials should offer solutions built on best practices, and not empty political gestures such as this local law – which doesn’t even require a qualified individual. As seen in the past, an elected assessor would be pressed to do the popular thing for some residents instead of the right thing for all residents. I refuse to let the GOP Majority attempt to bring back a broken system racking up enormous debt and unfairly shifting tax burden onto property owners who didn’t grieve.”
"The proposal that the County Executive has vetoed would allow someone to become Assessor despite lacking the certification or experience needed to serve effectively in this role,” said Nassau County Minority Leader Kevan M. Abrahams. “In fact, a person would be able to ascend to this job based merely on the political whims of party bosses, making this a deeply flawed piece of legislation."
Accuracy of the Reassessment
Justifying her decision to veto, the County Executive touted the results of an independent expert analysis of the the first Countywide reassessment in nearly a decade, completed earlier this year. The comprehensive study as well as the analysis of the New York State Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPTS) concluded that the reassessment eliminated the inaccurate and unfair wide disparities among home values that developed under the Mangano Administration with an unqualified assessor. The study found the new class one assessments are well within every major professional standard.
“I am proud of the work of our County Assessor and two renowned outside local vendors who took on the challenge of the reassessment. There is still more work to do to reverse the damage of the past where political considerations drove assessment policies and practices. We are bringing problems to light that were ignored or buried before,” said Curran.
Risks to the County’s Finances
The County Executive stresses the effect an unqualified political assessor would have on the County’s finances. Under the County guaranty, in addition to paying its own property tax refunds, the County must pay the property tax refunds of the towns, special districts and all but one of the school districts in the County.
“It would be irresponsible to provide an independently elected official with the ability to make assessment decisions that greatly affect County finances. Rather, the powers of appointment and approval of the assessor should remain with the County Executive and County Legislature, respectively,” said Curran.
This properly corresponds to the duty and responsibility of the executive and legislative branches under the Charter to protect County finances through the budget. Ultimately, this allows us to protect County residents from inequitable assessments and the cost of refunds.
Against Expert Recommendations and Industry Trends
In addition, going back to an elected assessor would run counter to the modern trend. ORPTS has published guidance describing the benefits of appointed assessors, including that they are career professionals, compared to elected assessors who are more subject to political pressures. According to ORPTS, elected assessors are a remnant of a by-gone era, surviving in less than 6% of New York assessing municipalities.
The County Executive also recently announced that more than 55% of Nassau’s homeowners are expected to see a decrease in their property taxes as a result of the reassessment when factoring in exemptions and Curran’s Taxpayer Protection Plan. The plan will effectively spread out any relative changes, increases and decreases, in tax burden due to the reassessment, over a five-year period. The plan was included in New York State’s 2019-2020 Budget legislation and is awaiting final approval by the Nassau County Legislature.