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Nassau County to halt mailing of assessments

Clavin: County ‘scheme’ to dissuade tax grievances

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A decision by Nassau County to stop mailing annual tentative assessment notices to residents, to remind them of the deadline to grieve their taxes, has spurred complaints by town and county officials and some seniors in Seaford and Wantagh.

In this year’s letter, mailed out after Jan. 1, a “special note” stated: “To significantly reduce operating costs the Department of Assessment will no longer produce and mail Notices of Tentative assessed value to homeowners and businesses beginning January 2, 2019.” It goes on to say that property owners will still be able to see their updated assessed values on the county website, and that paper notices will continue to be sent to those who make written requests.

Don Clavin, the Town of Hempstead’s receiver of taxes, and County Legislator Laura Schaefer, both Republicans, described the move as a “scheme” and said it would put senior citizens, those with limited incomes and others without internet access at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to making important decisions based on home values.

What’s more, Clavin pointed out, it is unclear in the letter to whom a resident’s written request should be sent.

At a news conference at the Wantagh Senior Center last Friday, the officials said they believed the decision to stop sending the letters was a “hidden” way for Nassau County to discourage residents from grieving their taxes. The deadline to challenge taxes is generally March 1.

County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat from Baldwin, did not respond to requests for comment.

Bunny Myones, who owns a home in Seaford and attends the center, said she grieved her property taxes last year, and she too believed the county’s new policy was done in a “surreptitious way.”

“I’m not computer literate — very few of us are,” Myones, 90, said of the seniors gathered at the news conference. “We’re beholden on the county for that letter.”

Blanch Drezen, who lives in the town apartment complex attached to the senior center, said she believed very much in moving ahead with technology, “but not at the expense of anyone, especially seniors, of which I am one.”

In a prepared statement before the news conference, Clavin called on the county’s acting assessor, James Davis, to “abandon a plan to curtail the long-standing practice of mailing residents an annual Notice of Tentative Assessed Value.

“Keeping homeowners informed about property assessments is the foundation of a transparent, accountable and forthright property-tax system,” Clavin added. “It would be a serious defeat for transparency and accountability, thereby further eroding trust and confidence in the county’s much maligned assessment system.” He called the timing of the effort “totally misguided” as Nassau’s Assessment Department, under Curran, is poised to embark on a major property-tax assessment revaluation project.

Schaefer said that the Assessment Department did not advise the County Legislature of its plan to halt the mailing of the “important property value data to Nassau’s residents.”

“In support of transparency and accountability, I am calling upon the county’s acting assessor to continue mailing this information to homeowners,” she said.