County Clerk Maureen O’Connell decries fee hikes

County Clerk Maureen O’Connell decries fee hikes

Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell blasted proposed fee hikes for real estate transactions at a news conference last Tuesday, joining a number of other politicians in questioning them.

County Executive Edward Mangano’s proposed $2.9 billion budget calls for raising three county fees, increasing the county property tax levy by 0.8 percent and growing spending by $28 million, according to Eric Naughton, the deputy county executive for finance.

The proposed fee increases would raise the assessment fee for verifying tax maps from $355 to $455, while the block recording fee would go from $300 to $400. Combined with a proposed increase to a public safety fee, which is applied on traffic tickets, the county would raise about $59 million.

“This is going to cause an especial hardship to first-time home buyers, seniors and veterans,” O’Connell told reporters. “We have people crying to us over how terrible it is.”

The county clerk does not determine fees in the clerk’s office. This matter is in the hands of the county Legislature, which determines the budget.

Dean Bennett, O’Connell’s Democratic opponent, described her response as “sort of opportunistic” and said she should have been a more forceful advocate against fee hikes.

“It’s a Republican-controlled legislature – for now – and it seems everyone got the green light to raise the fees,” Bennett said.

“Any responsible public official dealing with the constituents would supposedly raise a red flag that these fees are excessive and they’re nothing but a tax,” Bennett added.

O’Connell, a Republican seeking a fourth term this year, opposed similar real estate fee hikes in 2015.

Bennett also called Mangano’s plan to balance the county budget through raising fees “ineffective and tone-deaf” in a statement.

The fee hikes, and fiscal management in general, have also come under fire from both county executive candidates.

“From a broken assessment system, to high property taxes, to rising fees on just about everything, Nassau residents are paying the price for mismanagement and a lack of control about how we make our own decisions about the county’s financial future,” state Sen. Jack Martins, the Republican candidate for county executive, said previously.

County Legislator Laura Curran, the Democratic candidate for county executive, also blasted the fee hikes.

“The Mangano administration’s fiscal mismanagement has turned fees into just another tax hike, gouging residents and potential businesses and visitors,” Curran said in a statement.

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