Written by Debora Toth Friday, 02 October 2009 00:00
More than 240 residents flooded the parking lot and streets around the Farmingdale Library on the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 14 to attend a presentation and forum from the Nassau County Department of Assessment. The well-attended meeting allowed homeowners to have their exemption applications processed in person and to learn more about the department and if they qualify to save money in property taxes.
One of the key advantages of holding one-on-one meetings with one of the department’s valuation specialists at the library is that once an inaccuracy or incorrect entry is discovered with the recorded property information on-file, an adjustment can be made quickly. A homeowner will no longer have to wait months to file an assessment challenge with the Assessment Review Commission (ARC) from January-March and again wait months for a simple correction to be made.
While attendees waited for their number to be called to see a processor in person, Thaddeus (Ted) J. Jankowski, Jr., who was appointed to the position of Nassau County Assessor on Jan. 26, spoke to the crowd and provided information on why it takes so long to see your property tax reduction and the streamlining techniques he is implementing.
“We get a lot of questions about why Nassau County residents are seeing higher taxes if the value of their homes has decreased on average by 17 percent,” said Jankowski. “The tax levy is determined by the voters not by the assessed value of your home. Plus, the residential timeline takes 15 months before you will see a change on your tax bill. For example, in January 2009 a tentative assessment roll was adopted for 2010/11. For the next year, there is a review period where assessment challenges take place until the final assessment is adopted in April 2010 for 2010/11. School tax bills are then calculated in October 2010 and general tax bills are calculated in January 2011 using assessed values from the tentative assessment roll released on Jan. 2.”
However, Jankowski pledged to modernize the assessor’s office and make it much easier for Nassau County residents to file their paperwork. Jankowski says he is going to switch the paperwork from five different forms to one next year. His office, he says, makes 25,000 field visits per year to update their information. He plans to increase that number by three- to four-times by re-training employees and streamlining the information process. He plans to purchase hand-held devices where the field assessors can input data directly at a home into the computer base instead of the tedious paperwork that needs to be re-input at the office in which errors can be made.
“We have over 418,000 properties in Nassau County,” said Jankowski. “There are new powerful computer systems and software that will help us look at all the sales in the county, do aerial photos, and we’ll be much more accurate after the new year. We need accurate values to improve the process.”
Those who received numbers to see a processor in person were able to have their exemptions processed on site. Those exemptions included basic and enhanced STAR, veterans, senior citizen, Cold War veterans, volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers, limited income disability, and home improvement.
“A number of the assessment challenges that are filed each year often relate to an incorrect data entry or that homeowners might be unclear as to how the assessed value of their homes were determined,” said Jankowski. “Our new initiatives are going a long way to resolving issues quickly and are helping ease the frustration of homeowners who might otherwise be required to wait months for the Assessment Review Commission to review their property. And, most important, the one-on-one interaction is helping us enhance the Department’s property inventory database that is used to establish an assessed value on a home.”
During the forum, many different questions were asked of the new assessor. One woman, who described herself as a widow, asked what the criteria is to file for tax exemptions and how to do it. Another man questioned the assessor about why it takes so long to see a reduction for their exemptions.
“These high taxes are driving us all out of here,” he told the assessor. “If our house value has gone down, why are our taxes going up?”
One attendee, Dorothy Guercio, a 50-year-resident of Farmingdale, attended the forum to ensure that her veteran exemption was still being honored. Guercio said she called ahead and was put on a list offered by the library. She was taken immediately when the forum began. Her friend, however, was not as pleased. She came with Guercio and received number 180, a wait that she felt was too long and she left without being seen.
The Department of Assessment is responsible for developing fair and equitable assessments for all residential and commercial properties in Nassau County on an annual basis. Nassau County’s assessment roll includes over 418,000 properties with a value of $309 billion. It is the second largest assessing entity in the State of New York after New York City.
Homeowners may check their property records on the Department of Assessment website www.mynassauproperty.com to make sure that the information posted is accurate. For example, homeowners should check whether or not the architectural style, living area (i.e. number of rooms, bathrooms, finished basement and/or attic, presence of garage, etc.), lot size, and condition of the house is correct.
The Department of Assessment is continuing its Property Tax Exemption Outreach Program during September and October. Nearby upcoming programs will be held in Hicksville on Wed. Oct. 7 from 6-8 p.m. at the Hicksville Library at 169 Jerusalem Ave., and in Bethpage on Thursday Oct. 15 from 2-4 p.m. at the Bethpage Public Library at 47 Powell Ave. Department of Assessment personnel will also participate in a Property Tax Exemption Forum hosted by County Legislators on Thursday Oct. 1 from 6-8 p.m. at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library located at 999 Old Country Road. For additional forums, visit the Department’s website, www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Assessor/.