In 2011, the median property tax bill in Nassau County was $8,478, putting Nassau a close second to Westchester County for the highest property taxes in the country.
Last spring, Governor Cuomo and state legislative leaders agreed that suburban property owners were exorbitantly taxed, so they approved a 2 percent limit on property tax increases. Cuomo’s plan became one of the toughest in the nation. The legislation capped hikes in school and local property taxes at either 2 percent a year or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. The cap has very few exemptions, and can be waived only with a 60 percent vote from the governing body that controls local spending.
Now, 18 months later, Nassau County residents are receiving their property tax bills and seeing increases that are greater than 2 percent. Newsday reported that one resident of East Williston saw her tax bill jump 16 percent. Given the cap, how could this be?
Concerned residents have been writing letters, asking Cuomo to explain the math.
The answer is simple: school costs. School boards like to blame Nassau County’s broken assessment system, which probably is partly to blame, but according to the county’s acting assessor, James Davis, the Assessments Department is not to blame for the tax increases that burden so many of the county’s homeowners.
In a letter to the editor of Newsday, Davis correctly pointed out, “Nassau County uses the same assessment roll that school districts use to calculate a property’s tax share; yet it’s the school portion of the bill that increases.”
While County Executive Edward Mangano only submits budgets that do not increase spending, Long Island schools continue the tradition of out-of-control spending that has caused taxes to rise exponentially.
Davis also duly noted that “a 2 percent levy increase does not equate to a 2 percent tax bill increase” because pension cost increases, which are rising as much as 10 to 20 percent per year, and health insurance increases, add to the 2 percent. Therefore, the so-called 2 percent cap is really much more when you add in the costs of these benefits.
It has gotten so bad that school taxes are forcing people to abandon Nassau County.