Lou Frontario, the Oceanside Schools assistant superintendent for business, sit at his desk these days waiting for the angry phone calls that he knows will soon be coming in the wake of the Town of Hempstead’s recent mailing of tax bills to homeowners throughout the town.
“People look at their bills and remember that they voted for a 3.47 percent in the school’s budget but their taxes have gone up by 6.6 percent — and some, by as much as 12 percent. They are often angry and they always want answers,” Frontario said.
Although he calls the entire taxation process a “shell game,” he says that he always tries to explain what happens to individual homeowners in relation to the tax levy and their taxes.
“Tax rates are always up, that’s a rule of life,” he said with a laugh. “The problem is not the tax rate, but how it is applied to individual properties.”
He pointed out that there are four classes of properties that are taxed by the town and the way taxes are apportioned among the four — what is called the “base proportion — changes every year. Class one property is private homes, up to three units. Class two are coops and condominium units. Class three is public utilities. Class four are commercial properties, vacant land and anything else that is not in the other three classes.
Frontario said that this year, about 72 percent of the total tax levy is paid by homeowners. Commercial properties will pay a smaller percentage this year, raising the percentage the other three categories must pay. He adds that from year-to-year, there are “wild shifts” in the base proportion.
Within Class one properties, Hempstead Town tax assessors determine the value of each home and there are changes in the evaluation each year.
“Some homes increase in valuation, raising the amount of taxes they have to pay,” Frontario pointed out. “Some stay the same because their valuation has gone down and some have to pay more because their valuation has increased by a large number.
In 201-12012, for example, the Oceanside tax rate was $677.59 per hundred thousand dollars of valuation. In 2012-2013, that became $759,63. For this school year, it is 809.79.
How much an individual homeowner pays depends on the town’s assessment of the property, Frontario points out. A house with an evaluation of $200,000 would pay taxes of a little more than $16,000, while a home worth $300,000 would pay $24,000.
School bills are calculated by multiplying an individual property assessment by the district’s tax rate. If the assesses valuation drops, tax rates increase to bring in the same amount of money, town officials say. That means if one homeowner’s assessment goes down, another homeowners taxes go up if their assessment has stayed the same.
Over the past two years, Nassau homeowners have seen their school district taxes rise by an average of 10 percent, records show, despite the fact that a state tax cap limits tax levy increases to around three percent.
In Island Park, the 2013-14 school tax increase is 7.1 percent.