Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (at podium) was joined by County Attorney Lorna Goodman, Nassau County Legislators Roger Corbin (D-Westbury), Wayne Wink (D-Port Washington) and Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) with the county executive's pick for assessor, Thaddeus (Ted) Jankowski, Jr. (second from right).
On Election Day 2008, Nassau County residents voted, in a public referendum, to professionalize the assessment system and make the assessor an appointed position. Prior, the county's assessor was a politically elected official. Now, for the first time in the history of the county, the county executive will appoint the assessor; his selection must be confirmed by the legislature.
On Jan. 6, Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi publicly announced Thaddeus (Ted) J. Jankowski, Jr. as his choice for Nassau's new assessor to replace Harvey Levinson who retired late last year. In making his announcement, Suozzi also ordered 56-year-old Jankowski to immediately review and recommend improvements to the assessment system where possible. "As I have always stated, everyone associated with my administration is part of a team," Suozzi stated. "The only way we will be able to reduce our tax refund liability is by working together, through cooperation, dedication, ingenuity and hard work, just as we did when we rescued Nassau County from the brink of bankruptcy after I first took office in 2002."
According to the county executive, Jankowski, who has headed Jankowski Associates, LLC, an international assessment consulting firm, since 1980 has distinguished himself as the Commissioner of Assessing for the City of Boston, MA for eight years. He is a founder and former president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the International Association of Assessing Officers and served as city manager of South Portland, ME; assistant city manager and chief operating officer of Worcester, MA; president and CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board in Boston, MA; deputy city manager and chief financial officer of Portsmouth, NH; commissioner of assessing for the City of Boston, MA; chief assessor/assistant to the mayor for fiscal affairs for the City of Newton, MA; chairman of the board of assessors for the Town of Oxford, MA; and assistant assessor for the City of Worcester, MA.
A graduate of Boston College, Jankowski is an accredited assessor and the author of the book, Massachusetts Property Revaluation: Taxpayers Rights and Procedures. He was the recipient of The World Bank's 1999 Award for Excellence, for his work in Thailand's "Land Titling Project" widely known as the international model for successful land titling and land valuation, and was awarded the National Center of Public Productivity Award by Rutgers University for originating a nationally recognized payment-in-lieu-of-tax program (PILOT) for tax exempt institutions that generated more than $17 million in revenue for the City of Boston annually. In 2004, Jankowski was appointed by the mayor of Boston to serve on the Inspectional Services Department Management Review Commission.
As county assessor, Jankowski would be in charge of facilitating and overseeing the coordination and communication of assessment information between the Assessment Review Commission (ARC), Office of the County Attorney and the Department of Assessment, in addition to working with the New York State Office of Real Property Services and the County Legislature. The comprehensive study Suozzi called for today will include an examination of cyclical assessments that would potentially change Nassau's system from annual county assessments to bi- or tri-annual assessments, in addition to identifying opportunities for improvement in the residential and commercial valuation process; restructuring Department of Assessment operations; re-focusing the department's priorities under an appointed assessor. Jankowski is expected to submit a preliminary report to the county executive in 60 days.
"Thanks to the passage of the referendum that removed politics from the assessment process, Nassau County's assessor will now be a qualified assessment professional, responsible for setting property values for over 418,000 residential and commercial properties," said Suozzi. "My overall objective is simple: restore the public's confidence in the assessment system. Our assessment system will benefit from a full review by an experienced professional and I am confident Mr. Jankowski will help make Nassau a model for best practices in assessment."
"Mr. Jankowski's years of service will provide the Nassau County Assessor's Office with much needed training and expertise in the real estate and assessment fields," said Diane Yatauro, presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature. "We are fortunate to have someone with his depth of knowledge and experience to tackle the many challenges of our county assessment. His background gives me every confidence that he will succeed."
Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Peter Schmitt, however, is "not impressed" with the county executive's choice and told Anton Community Newspapers that he doesn't believe Jankowski is qualified for the job. "You cannot compare his position as assistant manager of the City of Worchester to Nassau County," Schmitt said, adding, "We have 6,000 attorneys practicing in Nassau County alone. We have thousands of New York State residents who are experts. Prior involvement in the assessment system is not necessary but knowledge of and experience with it is."
According to Schmitt, the New York State Office of Real Property Services (ORPS) requires that all assessors be New York State certified. The ORPS law, in part, states, "assessors (elected and appointed) and Real Property Appraisers (RPA) are required to complete basic certification training program ... Assessors must complete the Basic Certification Training Program within three years of beginning an initial term of officer whereas RPAs and candidates do not have a required time frame ..." Jankowitz, said Schmitt, has not attained any level of certification from New York State. He added that, under the law, an appointed assessor must already be certified while an elected assessor has three years to obtain certification.
Additionally, states Schmitt, New York Real Property Tax Law also includes a residency requirement and that, as of press time, Jankowitz was listed as a resident of Portsmouth, NH. "Under New York State Property Tax Law, an assessor is required to be a resident of New York State. He is not," said Schmitt, adding, "He has not owned a home here. Does not pay taxes here. He does not have a concept of the impact doing something wrong here will have. We have a system in shambles and cannot afford any more mistakes."
As assessor, Jankowski would earn $157,000 annually; according to the League of Women Voters of Nassau County's 2008 publication They Represent You, Levinson's salary was $166,300.
"County Executive Suozzi has made it clear that he wants Nassau County to have the best assessment administration in the country and that is what we aim to accomplish," Jankowski told Anton Community Newspapers. "I have been impressed with Nassau County's turnaround and I look forward to working with the county executive and the legislators to improve the assessment system."
Approval of Jankowski as county assessor requires a vote by the legislature, which, as of press time, could come as soon as Jan. 25. If appointed, Jankowski would serve the remainder of Levinson's term (which expires Dec. 31, 2009) and then, under the terms of the referendum, be eligible for a three-year appointment.