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County Executive’s Column - October 15, 2010

Ask Your Legislator to Pass My No Property Tax Increase Budget

I recently submitted to the Nassau County Legislature a Proposed No-Property Tax Increase Budget for next year that includes ending the so-called “County Guarantee,” which has been bankrupting our great county for years. You may be aware that Nassau County assesses homes and businesses for not only itself, but also for school districts and towns as well. When a business or homeowner successfully challenges their taxes, they are rightfully awarded a refund. However, the “County Guarantee” is a law that requires Nassau to pay back not only its share of the refund, but also the school district and town share as well. Therefore, Nassau is refunding one dollar for every 20 cents it actually receives in error.

Simply put, if one school district receives $1 million in error, all taxpayers throughout our county are forced to pay back the error rather than just those taxpayers in that school district that received the money. My reform plan requires schools and towns that receive tax dollars in error to pay back those dollars rather than those who never benefitted.

Although Nassau is one of the wealthiest counties in our nation, it now has twice the debt of neighboring Suffolk County. Debt and outstanding liability associated with the “County Guarantee” totals $1.6 billion - costing taxpayers $250 million annually in refunds and interest.

As we face a staggering $343 million deficit in 2011, I am committed to ending this illogical, unfair and inequitable practice that has contributed to our deficit. Just as I have cut more than $100 million in county spending, I will work to see that schools and towns do the same.

The previous administration’s failure to reform the broken property tax assessment system remains a leading cause of Nassau’s current fiscal insolvency. Whether a lack of understanding of this real problem or an unwillingness to stand up to the special interests that benefit from it, the failure to act on reforms to this system resulted in higher property taxes and record level debt and $364 million in outstanding liability for Nassau County taxpayers. Although I did not create this $364 million in outstanding liability, I will clean it up.

I ask the members of the Nassau County Legislature to put partisan politics aside and work with my administration to put the taxpayers first. It’s time to get Nassau County back on track. Please call your county legislator today and ask them to pass my no-property tax increase budget that includes these real reforms.