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Falling Values Send Tax Rates Soaring

Hicksville homeowners will see a

6.2 percent increase this year

Residents across Nassau County are being hit with sharp school tax rate increases once again. Hicksville homeowners will see less of an increase than last year, but the 6.2 percent increase is still significantly high when coupled with last year's 7.582 percent increase.

The latest school tax bills, reflecting the the tax rates, will be mailed to Hicksville residents this week. In the past two years, school tax rates have increased almost 14 percent.

According to Hicksville High School superintendent Maureen K. Bright, the school tax rate for Hicksville homeowners is $623.51. 2.938 percent of that is due to the tax levy increase, while the other 3.285 is controlled by the County, due to reduced assesment and increased adjusted base proportion (ABP).

Across Nassau County, homeowners are seeing an increase in their tax rates. One reason for this increase is because of lower property valuations, especially by commercial properties, which generate property tax revenue that would otherwise come from homeowners, coops, condos and public utilities. Many owners have challenged their assessments through the Assessment Review Commission (ARC), an independent agency which reviews the valuation set by Nassau County. If it finds a property excessively overvalued, the ARC reduces the assessment, which lowers the taxes—and sometimes includes huge rebates—for that individual property owner.

But the school budget calls for a specific amount of tax revenue; if the value of taxable land  falls then the tax rate must rise to bring in the same amount. Thus, those lower property values are forcing another year of dramatic rise in school tax rates. This number has been on the decline for several years. In 2004, the share of school taxes paid by commercial property owners was 41 percent, in 2013, it was 35.82. In effect, the homeowners’ share of the school tax increased from 54.35 percent in 2004 to 57.6 percent in 2013.

Nassau County uses a tax class system, segregating different types of properties. Classes 1 and 2 include properties that are primarily residential. Class 3 consists of utility company equipment and special franchises. Class 4 contains all other property, including commercial, industrial and institutional buildings, and vacant land. Each class contributes a different percentage of the overall tax bill, called the “adjusted base proportion” or “ABP.” Those rates were changed last year, too, by the county, raising the portion of taxes paid by residential homeowners.  

Owners in every class are eligible to challenge their assessments. But the impact on revenue of revaluing a home—worth about $400,000 on average countywide—is negligible next to the impact of revaluing a commercial property—worth well into the millions in Nassau county. (And remember, when one taxpayer wins a reduction, the rest must make up the difference.)

When the Department of Assessment issued homeowners their 2012-2013 tax roll disclosure notice last year, Nassau properties had been given the lowest possible assessed values, according to the department.

“The lowest possible value was chosen because of our commitment to keep the assessments at a reasonable level that is fair and equitable to all property owners,” said Gregory Hild, chairman of the Department of Assessment’s transition team at the time.

However, these lower property taxes have caused school tax rates to rise, making up for, and in some cases far surpassing, the money saved on property taxes.

School taxes rise when the district seeks more money than the previous year, but typically budget increases are relatively small. The bigger impact, according to school administrators, comes from changes in assessed value—both of people’s homes and of commercial properties.