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The Airing Of Grievances

It’s no secret — living on Long Island these days isn’t cheap, and folks are always looking for ways to cut corners and save a buck or two. With property taxes being what they are, shaving off a few dollars from property taxes is a great way to improve financial situations.

Nassau County Legislator Rose Marie Walker is doing her best to help local residents do just that by offering them assistance in grieving their property taxes; that is, if a homeowner feels that their home has been assessed at higher than it’s actual value, and by that error they are paying higher taxes than they should be, they can challenge that assessment and potentially have their taxes lowered.

Walker and her fellow legislators, in conjunction with the Nassau County Assessment Review Commission, is holding a series of tax grievance seminars for the public to attend; she said that this is just a small part of what Nassau lawmakers try to do to serve the needs of the members of their constituent districts.

“As Legislators, we reach out to our Assessment Office, and we ask them to provide workshops within our districts to help better acquaint our residents with the tax grievance process and what they have to do,” she said. “Many people feel that they have to go through a company, and unfortunately they don’t realize that they can get locked into that company and billed for years and years...a lot of people, especially our seniors just don’t realize that grieving your taxes isn’t a difficult task to do on your own if you feel that your taxes aren’t what they should be.”

Walker’s most recent of these seminars was held at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library; while there, the Legislator said that the average person, with the assistance of Nassau County’s Assessment Office, is as capable of grieving their taxes as an expensive company who might not have their best interests at heart.

“Basically, it’s just filling out the paperwork and putting in the information that they need to have,” she said. “However, a lot of people don’t realize that, if they’re going with an outside company, nothing different is being done...any individual can do it on their own. And if they go with an outside company, if they get any change in their taxes and they do have to pay less, the company they dealt with gets half of that money. If it’s your home, it should all go to you, not some company that just did the paperwork.”

Helen McQueen of the Assessment Review Commission conducted the seminar, and went over the services that she offers to those looking to file a grievance and hopefully knock a buck or two off their property taxes.

“I go into the meat of how to file on paper, how to file online, how to research the value of your house, and you can do this all on your own,” she said. “There are many factors that determine the value of your home, and the value of your home determines if you’re entitled to a small reduction or a big one.”

McQueen noted that those afraid of opening a can of worms by filing a grievance and possibly having their taxes raised instead of lowered can lay their fears to rest.

“Under normal circumstances, if you file a grievance and you say that your house is not worth $400,000, it’s only worth $350,000, and we investigate and note that houses on your block are actually selling for $450,000, we can not increase the assessment for your property,” she said. “There’s nothing punitive about the process. The only thing we can do, because our jurisdiction is limited, is leave the value as it is, or lower it. We’ll never come in because of an error and raise your taxes, and if you’re entitled to a reduction, we’ll make a reduction offer.”

Frank Wing of Old Bethpage had previously attempted to have his property taxes adjusted and failed to do so; he hoped that, by attending Walker’s seminar, the outcome would be different should he attempt it again.

“I just wanted to find out the process...I tried to grieve my taxes years ago and I didn’t really get anything,” he said. “I have a second home upstate and I did successfully grieve my taxes there, but the process in Nassau is different. I know people here who have grieved and gotten a reduction, so I decided to come down today and find out what exactly I need to do.”

Hicksville resident Tim Glover was another member of the audience for the tax grievance seminar, and had a notepad and pen in-hand in case any useful tidbits of information were divulged that could assist him.

“Last year I got a raise in my taxes, and they assessed the house for much more than I think I could sell if for...I want to see if I can lower my taxes in any which way,” he said. “I would like to get a little back...well, anyone would, of course. I used to get a military discount, but I don’t get as much as I used to, so we’ll see what I can do about it.”

To find out more about assistance available to you on grieving your property taxes, contact your local Nassau County

Legislator’s office.