Taxpayers pile into Nassau County Legislature for reassessment hearing

Taxpayers pile into Nassau County Legislature for reassessment hearing
Hundreds attend a reassessment hearing held at the Nassau County Legislature. (Photo by Jessica Parks)

It was the most heavily attended meeting since the inception of the Legislature on Wednesday night, Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), the presiding officer of the Republican majority, said.

Taxpayers piled into the Nassau County Legislative Chamber for a public forum where they could voice their opinions on the reassessment directly to the Nassau County Assessor David Moog.

The main legislative room was filled to capacity as well as a number of satellite rooms in the building. The line to get in was down Mineola Boulevard.

Residents were asked to fill out a form which would then be selected to determine when they would speak.

The hearing did not end until after midnight.

A resident of Sands Point, Eric Berliner, drew gasps from the crowd when he approached the podium to say that his home’s market value increased by more than $6 million.

His taxes under the reassessment will increase from around $82,000 to over $122,000

“I went to one of the satellite offices of Nassau County, along with my next-door neighbor whose assessment went from $4 million to $10.5 million.”

He said the assessor he met with told him that his home was based on home sales in Sands Point, but when Berliner looked at the pages that the assessor printed out for him, the highest sale price was $4.6 million in the last six years.

When Berliner looked on the county website to see his home’s comparators, he found his home was listed as a unique property.

He said he asked the assessor what he could do besides having to hire a certiorari attorney at a great expense and said he was told that was about all he could do.

Berliner said he grieved his taxes when he built his home in 2004 and received a tax reduction but “once they were reduced to the proper amount, I stopped grieving the taxes which has been over six years.”

He has now retained an appraiser so that he could begin the grievance process.

“The tax assessment is beyond, it’s fraudulent, it’s criminal,” he said.

“My house is worthless with this assessment…. and 50 other of my friends’ houses are worthless.”

Moog was given time to speak prior to the public comment period where he defended the assessment values which he said had been validated by independent experts.

He explained that while the tax rolls were frozen from 2011 to the present, assessed values fell 33 percent despite rising home values.

He said when reviewing the initial results of the assessment he became concerned with the “feasibility with the current class one level of assessment,” which was set at .25 percent.

Therefore, he decreased the level of assessment to .10 percent of the home value and removed the cap where taxes could not be increased more than six percent a year or more than 20 percent over five years.

He said with the cap it would take an excessive period of time, an average of 50 years,  for a property to reach its proportionate share of taxes.

Moog went on to explain that residents still have the right to file a petition for review if they are unhappy with their assessment.

He said his job as an assessor “is to create an assessment roll whereby a taxpayer does not have to file a claim to be treated fairly” and that is what the Department of Assessors has done.

“We stand by the assessment roll and all the interactions and communications we have had with thousands of taxpayers at our office and satellite offices,” he said.

In a question and answer period between the legislators in attendance and the assessor, Nicolello asked Moog how many public forums he had held or meetings he has attended where he’s personally answered taxpayers questions.

“I have not attended any yet,” Moog said.

He added that they thought that it would be more effective for them to set up satellite offices where people could sit with their senior assessment staff one on one and have their questions answered.

“From those satellite offices, we have met with over 4,000 taxpayers,” he said.

Assessors were made available in the executive chamber of the Legislature building during the hearing for taxpayers to speak with.

Giovanni Cerroni, a resident of Port Washington, said his county taxes will go up around $900 under the reassessment.

His home has seven rooms and not the eleven rooms that it had been priced for.

Moog said: “If we have the inventory of property wrong, we have the wrong number of rooms, you can go upstairs and get that corrected.”

Not everyone in attendance spoke out against the reassessment.

Richard Fascianella of Bellmore had previously grieved his taxes after he had renovated his mother’s home and he believed it was priced too high at around $900,000.

Under the reassessment, his home is valued at about $660,000, which is what he says he would list it as if he were to put it on the market.

“So I just want to say that I support [Nassau County Executive] Laura Curran’s efforts here to fix what was a very broken, messed up system,” he said. “It needs to get done, as quickly and as judiciously as possible.”

He suggested to the assessor that he be more responsive and to use more understandable language when explaining the new system to taxpayers.

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