Declaring victory for government transparency and local homeowners, Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin announced that Nassau’s Assessment Department has reversed its plan to halt mailing Nassau neighbors’ property value notices, the foundation upon which residents’ taxes are based, after the Receiver and angry senior citizens assailed the county’s policy decision. Additionally, Clavin thanked the Nassau County Legislature’s Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello for drafting legislation that will mandate that the “Notices of Tentative Assessment” continue to be mailed to property owners. The Assessment Department’s poorly thought-out scheme to cancel mailing home values would have forced homeowners to seek the data on the Internet, creating a significant hardship for many senior citizens, the economically disadvantaged and others who lack access to computers and on-line service. Joining Clavin at the press announcement were Nassau County Legislature Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello, Legislator Laura Schaefer and a group of grateful senior citizens from Wantagh.
“Nassau’s assessment system is broken, and the only thing worse than a dysfunctional tax system is trying to keep homeowners’ property values a secret,” said Clavin. “I am happy that the Nassau Assessment Department has reconsidered its plan to halt the mailing of homeowners’ property values to Nassau residents. This is a victory for government transparency. I want to also thank Nassau County Legislature’s Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello and the majority legislators for crafting legislation that will mandate the mailing of ‘Notices of Tentative Assessed Value.’”
On June 1, 2018, Clavin mailed the Acting Nassau County Assessor, demanding that his department abandon a plan to curtail the long-standing practice of mailing residents an annual Notice of Tentative Assessed Value. The Receiver observed that the scheme to restrict access to property value information to the Assessment Department’s website would place senior citizens, those with limited incomes and others without Internet access at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to making important decisions based on home values. Further, Clavin said that the maneuver, which would only continue mailing tax assessment updates to those who made written requests through the U.S. Postal Service, would be a serious defeat for transparency and accountability, thereby further eroding trust and confidence in the county’s much maligned assessment system. Finally, Clavin called the timing of the effort “totally misguided” as Nassau’s Assessment Department is poised to embark on a major property tax assessment revaluation project.
Almost immediately, Nassau County Legislature’s Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello and Legislator Laura Schaefer responded to Clavin’s call for action. The legislative duo has drafted legislation that will mandate the mailing of the Notices of Tentative Assessed Value to the county’s property owners, leaving no discretion to the county’s Assessment Department on the matter.
“I want to thank Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin for bringing this issue to everyone’s attention,” said Nicolello. “I am proud that we can help Nassau homeowners by crafting legislation that will mandate the continued mailing of crucial home value data to Nassau homeowners. Our neighbors deserve unrestricted access to this information in the interest of government transparency and accountability.”
“I was pleased to stand with Don Clavin and senior citizens on June 1st to demand that the Nassau County Assessment Department provide complete transparency on its assessment of residents’ properties,” stated Schaefer. “Mailing property value information to homeowners is the right thing to do. Access to home values is critical to making important decisions on issues such as challenging property tax assessments.”
The Receiver and several seniors noted that most residents were unaware of the Nassau Assessment Department’s plan to curtail the mailing of the home value notices. Clavin said that this fact came as no surprise to him since the information regarding the termination of mailed assessment valuation notices was “buried” in the January 2018 Tentative Assessed Value notification. In fact, the words “…the Department of Assessment will no longer produce mail Notices of Tentative Assessed Value…” were buried in a 400-word document in which residents were solely focused on information concerning their latest “tentative assessed value.”
While the “seemingly secret” notification that the mailing of home values would be discontinued resulted in significant frustration, the “taxpayer-unfriendly” method of dealing with exceptions to the new policy was equally exasperating. The County Assessor didn’t advise readers to whom their requests to continue receiving assessment value notices by mail should be addressed. It also failed to offer convenient alternatives, such as Internet or phone-based options, to request the maintenance of Notices of Tentative Assessed Value by U.S. Mail.
“I strongly believe that the county Assessment Department’s decision to halt the mailing of home values to residents and the complicated and difficult steps required to receive an exception to this policy were part of an intentional effort to limit access to information,” said Clavin. “It would have especially hurt our most vulnerable residents the hardest—senior citizens, the poor and others without Internet access. Thankfully, Rich Nicolello has taken steps to ensure that the County Assessor will never again be able to restrict access to property value information for Nassau homeowners.”
“As Nassau County embarks upon a major property revaluation, it’s more important than ever that homeowners have greater access, not less, when it comes to their property values,” concluded Clavin. “By working together, we can enhance government transparency, openness and accountability.”