MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Property taxes are front and center in Nassau County.
After a county-wide reassessment with more than half of homeowners’ taxes increasing, critics want the job of tax assessor to be elected, and no longer a political appointee.READ MORE: CDC Announces New Mask Guidance For People Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19
As CBS2’s Carolyn Guoff reports, Susan Johnson’s modest home in Massapequa just saw a big tax increase.
“It more than doubled,” she said. “I’m very upset about that.”
Because it’s new construction, tax hikes come all at once, with no phase-in like other property taxes that went up in a county-wide reassessment.
“It’s not fair because there are houses that are three times the size of mine and they are paying way less,” Johnson said.
Taxes on another Massapequa house also doubled.
“Twenty six thousand dollars. I live in 1,400 square feet,” said homeowner Owen Cuminsky. “Most houses are twice the size of mine and yet I’m paying more taxes.”
Tax woes are prompting calls for a change in who oversee Nassau property assessment. Republicans are blasting what they call an error-laden tax roll.
“Errors in the assessment that are now going to cost county taxpayers in excess $40 million to fix,” said Nassau County Legislator Steve Rhoades.
They want a referendum, and for the public to decide if the position should be an elected post instead of a political appointee.READ MORE: Israel Attacks Gaza Strip As Violence Intensifies
“An elected assessor, someone who is responsible to the people, someone who is accountable. We need to get beyond this mess,” said Nassau County Legislature Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello.
Most agree reassessment was needed after years of inaccuracies, but with Democrat County Executive Laura Curran up for reelection, opponents highlight homes that saw taxes rise. They failed to override the county executive’s veto on putting the assessor question on the ballot.
Democrats say electing an assessor will just politicize the job.
“The Republicans were looking for something to complain about from day one. It was bipartisan to allow reassessment because they realized it was a corrupt dysfunctional system for a decade, so we changed it,” said Nassau County Legislator Arnie Drucker. “The reassessment of Nassau county was eminently fair.”
Most assessor positions in the state are appointed professionals. A decade ago, Nassau voters changed it from an elected position.
A bill to also allow a phase-in of tax increases on new construction awaits the governor’s signature. That should help homeowners like Johnson cope with the sudden spike in taxes, but won’t make the ultimate price tag more affordable.
A spokesperson for Curran said the Republicans in the county legislature are playing politics with property assessment.
“While the county executive is focused on distributing life-saving vaccines to protect residents and boost our economic recovery, the Republican majority remains focused on playing politics with property assessment,” the spokesperson said.
After the vote, William Biamonte, chief of staff for the minority legislature caucus, issued the following statement:MORE NEWS: Bronx Man Takes It Upon Himself To Clean Up NYC Park, But City Says Not So Fast
Members of the majority sat on their hands for the better part of a decade while the previous county executive systemically dismantled the integrity of our tax rolls. With that sort of dubious track record, why on Earth should Nassau homeowners take their advice on how to restore fairness and integrity to a system they were complicit in breaking? Now that their badly flawed bill has been defeated for a second time, it’s time for the Majority to stop treating assessment like a political football.