Nassau County’s property tax appeal deadline has been extended to April 30th this year. Republican legislators pushed for the extension citing numerous errors associated with this year’s countywide revaluation of all properties. The current county executive and her administration, which happens to be Democratic, says they have extended the deadline in order to allow every property owner the opportunity to have their assessment reviewed. Regardless of which side was the true impetus or enactor of the change, the bottom line is that property owners now have an additional sixty days before a grievance must be filed to protest their taxes.
The highly publicized and politicized revaluation has caused a great deal of confusion amongst property owners. Every property has received at least three separate notices by now. The first was sent as a requirement under the real property tax law in early November advising of the property’s new assessment. However, the notice did not contain an estimate of taxes resulting from the new assessment, which caused tremendous fear and angst amongst property owners.
Next, Nassau County sent a “Tax Impact Notice,” which showed last year’s taxes next to projected taxes for the 2020-2021 tax year. This notice lacked clarity in that assessment ratios that had not been used since 2010 formed the basis for comparison between property values. Many residential and commercial property owners were utterly confused when they saw artificially low values sky rocket while the change in taxes appeared to be less drastic. For property owners who saw their taxes increase, there was a great deal of frustration. But, even property owners who saw marginal changes or tax reductions judged the notices with great suspicion due to the lack of consistency when comparing the value increase.
The last and most recent notice arrived in early January with the officially published tentative assessment as of January 2, 2019. This notice again contained the 2010 assessment ratio which resulted in the same large percentage increases, again alarming property owners. This notice also stated the deadline to file a grievance was March 1st, even though the deadline had been extended to April 30th.
Along the way, the assessor announced that over 40,000 residential assessments were corrected in December. While taxpayer input was cited as a positive element of what caused the changes, others feared that such a large volume of changes hurt the credibility of the revaluation values.
Another point of confusion amongst taxpayers receiving the assessment notices is exactly when the new assessments will affect their tax payments. Under the law, the assessments published January 2, 2019 do not impact tax bills until the October 2020 school tax bill and January 2021 general tax bill. So while the multiple notices sent by the county in rapid succession left owners with the impression that the change will soon affect their bank accounts, there is actually a significant delay before it does so.
There are negative aspects of the time lag, but an overwhelming positive aspect is that it enables property owners to file their grievance and have a substantive review of their case prior to issuance of the tax bills. If an owner feels they are inaccurately assessed, this avenue of recourse is one that property owners must avail themselves of and file a grievance prior to the new April 30th deadline.
It remains to be seen if the assessment roll is an improvement upon prior rolls. There has been some rhetoric that the assessment roll is now “fixed.” Such statements fail to understand the complexity of revaluing 424,000 parcels and the pitfalls that come with mass appraisal. The assessor’s willingness to make changes where they are warranted is positive, but the fact that thousands of errors occurred in the first place is of major concern. Property owners need to have confidence in the county’s commitment to accurate values and an expectation that the county will examine the merit of assessment changes. To that end, the extension of the grievance deadline is a critical one.
Brad Cronin, Esq., and Sean Cronin, Esq., are partners at Cronin & Cronin Law Firm, PLLC, Mineola, N.Y.