State appeals court upholds ‘county guarantee’


A state appeals court has denied Nassau County’s attempt to shift the cost of refunding property-tax challenges to school districts and towns. The decision was reached unanimously on Feb. 27 by four justices of the New York State Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

For more than 60 years, the county has been responsible for refunding homeowners whose property taxes were improperly assessed. The New York State Legislature amended the Nassau County Charter in 1948, adding in a provision called the “county guarantee,” which states that the county, and not the school districts and towns, must pay tax-certiorari refunds.

In 2010, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano passed legislation, called the Common Sense Law, to repeal the guarantee, shifting the cost of refunds to school districts, towns and special districts, which Mangano said would save the county $80 million annually. Nassau would continue to collect revenue from tax liens, foreclosure sales, penalties and delinquent payments.

The decision outraged school superintendents, who argued that they have had to cut spending to the bone to balance their budgets during tough economic times. Having to reimburse property-tax refunds –– and incur the heavy legal fees that come with defending assessments that the county is responsible for making –– would only add to districts’ fiscal pain. The county’s Assessment Review Commission reviews property-tax challenges to decide whether homeowners have been erroneously assessed.

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