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Editorial

It’s time for the Legislature to act on tax plan

Posted

Nassau County’s property-tax assessment system has been in a shambles for decades. Homeowners who protested their tax bills have generally been given relief. Those who didn’t grieve their taxes paid more than their fair share.

When Laura Curran was elected county executive two years ago, she immediately put forward a plan to undo the mess. It would phase in reassessment over five years to spread out potential tax increases for the roughly half of residents who have grieved their taxes in the past. The plan is still sitting in the County Legislature, awaiting approval by the Republican majority.

The system has been decaying since 2011, when then County Executive Edward Mangano stopped updating assessments, saying that freezing them would help him decide appeals quickly and save the county money.

The move did save $20 million annually, but created a huge tax shift. Most property owners who challenged assessments every year — many of them affluent — were granted reductions. Others, who tended to be poorer and older, never challenged their assessments and paid a larger share of the tax burden.

The proportion of homeowners expected to see tax increases live in a North Shore legislative district that includes Plainview, Jericho, Old Westbury and Roslyn Heights. The biggest decreases will be seen in Hempstead, Westbury, New Cassel, Uniondale, Freeport and Roosevelt.

But the Legislature’s Republican majority has been fighting Curran all the way. A week ago, Republicans got the public hearing they had demanded, ending the latest standoff between them and the Democratic county executive.

The Legislature must approve a separate local law by July in order for Curran’s phase-in to take effect before the first tax bills are mailed in October. Homeowners and prospective buyers have the right to know if the phase-in will become law.

Curran’s plan is fair and reasonable. Nearly a decade has passed since the county’s last reassessment. That caused a long gap, resulting in mass inaccuracies in home values, and a system that failed to maintain professional standards of fairness and accuracy.

Under Curran’s plan, homeowners would still be able to grieve their tax bills if they disagreed with their assessments. “When our homeowners pay town, school, special district and county taxes,” Curran said, “they deserve assurance that the amounts they are paying are fair and equitable.”

We agree, and urge the Legislature’s GOP majority to approve Curran’s phase-in plan quickly.