The revelation in Newsday Media Group on Monday of new errors in the 2023/24 Nassau County’s 2023/24 assessment roll has once again justifiably shaken the faith of taxpayers in the fairness of the system and, unfortunately, given political parties new fuel to stoke the partisan flames. In this latest incident, the Department of Assessment (“DOA”) made significant adjustments to the final 2023/24 final tax roll because they mistakenly failed to include $139M in valuation increases on the tentative tax roll released in January 2022. These increases were a rude surprise for the 624 homeowners who improved their properties through major expansions or home renovations in 2021 and had thought they had caught a lucky break when their assessments did not go up.
Failure to correct this massive error would have resulted in higher taxes for everyone in Nassau County.
As characteristic for Nassau County, it didn’t take long for Republicans and Democrats to begin vigorously pointing fingers at each other while Newsday took the opportunity in an op-ed piece on Thursday to blame everyone under the sun for perpetuating a broken assessment system.
As usual, where there are two sides to a story, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Like most systems across the country, the Nassau County assessment system is far from perfect and would clearly benefit from a massive overhaul. Instead of covering that voluminous topic, however, it is also important to point out that some of the worst problems with the Nassau County Assessment system arise when politicians’ half-measures and, statutory band-aids are used to tinker with the system.
Case in point would be the “assessment freezes” that administrations on both sides of the aisle have used to pander to voters amid soaring valuations over the past 20 years. Rather than allowing assessments to follow market value trends, these freezes have undermined the assessment system by creating artificially low valuations and significantly higher tax rates over time. Political assessment freezes also make the job of the DOA to maintain and update assessments in a fair and equitable manner much more difficult. Perhaps even difficult enough to miss significant assessment increases on 624 homes and an extra $139M in value to help defray to cost of property taxes for all Nassau County taxpayers.
Thank you to Willets Meyer for this week’s Tax Tracker!