Nassau needs an assessment commission

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In 2010, we editorialized against the County Legislature’s decision to repeal the guaranty because it would have been fundamentally unfair of the county to pass the broken assessment system off to local municipalities. The county created the assessment system, and the mess it has become. It must repair it before handing it off to any other government body.

Restoring sanity to assessments, though, is no easy proposition. Tax-certiorari cases have become something of a cottage industry for many politically connected law firms, which reap rich rewards from the county’s dysfunction. Fixing the system must begin with breaking their hold on it, but the county has failed to come up with a plan for doing so because the assessment system has become a political football that Republicans and Democrats love to fight over.

We suggest a new approach –– one that would require officials to get along. Mangano should immediately empanel a bipartisan commission to examine potential permanent fixes, with an eye toward assigning responsibility for assessing properties and adjudicating grievances to the towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay and the cities of Glen Cove and Long Beach. The commission should have representatives from each municipality, along with two experienced assessors, active or retired.

The commission should scour the state to find the counties with the fewest assessment challenges –– and figure out how and why their systems are working. From there, it should develop a workable assessment model for Nassau.

The process should take no more than six months. Time is of the essence. For four straight years, from 2009 to 2012, Nassau paid $63 million annually in tax certiorari refunds, according to a report last October by County Comptroller George Maragos. In his 2014 budget, Mangano budgeted only $10 million for successful tax challenges, while Maragos recommended budgeting at least five times as much.
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