News: Tax Issues on Long Island
(Long Island, N.Y.) While Nassau County faces a variety of financial issues, one that has many Long Islanders holding their wallets tighter is that of property taxes. The current county executive, Edward Mangano, inherited the task of having to reform the old policy of property tax assessments. Steps have been taken to help keep one of America's richest counties out of the financial hole.
The county issued an eight week window for Nassau County homeowners to challenge their property tax assessments. During that time, Nassau County officials have brainstormed to deal with what's known as the broken assessment system. In place long before Mangano's administration, the system compensates homeowners for faults in assessments, including the hefty share awarded to school taxes.
It's been estimated that the county spends $250 million a year under this broken assessment system, contributing to the county's $1.6 billion dollar debt. While county officials have been battling the legality of turning authority over to NIFA (Nassau Interim Finance Authority), a state-watchdog agency, many residents are in outrage over lapses in the system. Some residents have stated that they have received late letters from the county detailing their assessed property values. Some were left with less than two weeks to challenge the assessments before the close of the eight week deadline.
Not surprisingly, some residents claim that this has hindered their ability to challenge assessments. While the information for property tax assessments is available on the Internet, many don't know to look there and insist on waiting for the assessments via mail. Some residents claim that though their annual assessments have lowered, their taxes have increased in the following year. Others claim that their taxes have increased solely in response to reductions granted to their neighbors.
Many things can lead to higher property taxes including court orders, exemptions, and shifts in value. Some residents accuse the county of using transparency to prevent residents from challenging their assessments. Of those who have challenged assessments, some claim that the county has made it nearly impossible to collect what has been granted to them.
Nassau County residents who have challenged property assessments complain of the steep lawyer fees that go along with the process, saying that up to fifty percent of their judgment could be lost to fees. Some claim that they are still waiting for money that was awarded to them last year. Others say they are forced to challenge their assessments every year because the lapse in estimated value, which led to what they were awarded, hasn't been reflected in their paperwork.
Mangano has proposed a variety of reforms for the property tax issue, and has been claiming all along that Nassau County officials are more than capable of managing county finances without the interference of NIFA. To help keep Nassau out of the hole, he suggests freezing property tax assessments for a period of four years and phasing out the borrowing used to pay the $100 million in tax refunds each year. Tax refund expenses have been a main factor in bringing the county to near bankruptcy.
Residents of Nassau County claim they can't afford their property taxes and have sold their homes as a result of their continual rate increase. A resident of Roslyn Estates, whose home was assessed at $1.2 million, has stated that he hasn't been able to sell his home for $800,000. Not surprisingly, he claims that he also can't afford the $26,000 in taxes each year. He is one of many Nassau County residents that have stated that their property taxes are not a true reflection of their homes' value.
New York State has some of the highest property taxes in the country. It's estimated that one in three Long Island homeowners are overtaxed. Last year sixty thousand Nassau County residents challenged their tax assessments. Some still say the real issue supplementing the county's financial woes is the union workers who would rather take from the county then make concessions.
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