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Richard Fromewick Quoted in LIBN, "Nassau County Seeks Commercial Property Data"

May 10, 2002

Media Source: Long Island Business News


After the vast majority of commercial property owners in Nassau County ignored a request in January for property income and expense statements, the county's Board of Assessors is making another push to obtain the data by the end of June, according to Nassau County Assessor Charles O'Shea.

The board wants to use the information for its tax reassessment project, the county's first for commercial property since 1986.

If owners still don't respond by June, O'Shea said, the board has the authority to impose a $500 fine on non-compliers, and it may seek authority from the county Legislature for other methods to force compliance.

'If we need more teeth, I'll seek it before the county Legislature,' said O'Shea, a Republican who served 11 years in the state Assembly.

But Richard Fromewick, a tax certiorari attorney with Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, said he doubted the county would have time to collect all the data and analyze it fast enough to meet its ambitious schedule.

O'Shea said assessors use several methods to arrive at a property's value. They often use a combination of three factors: comparing a property to others based on its size and location, its latest sales price and its income and expense data.

The owners of Nassau's 22,000 commercial parcels are scheduled to receive preliminary notices of tentative appraised value for their properties in August or September. They will have until December to informally challenge those numbers.

Then in late December, they will receive letters that lock in an assessment value, pending formal legal challenges filed between January and April.

Once the new tax roll is in place, each of the county's taxing jurisdictions will set a tax rate at which assessed property is to be taxed.

The new roll could be used by certain Nassau villages as soon as June 2003 and it will be used to calculate school taxes in Nassau in October 2003. County and town tax bills will be affected in January 2004.

The county has contracted with Cole Layer Trumble Co. of Dayton, Ohio, to administer reassessment of not only commercial but also residential properties, which haven't been systematically reassessed since the 1930s.

With respect to commercial properties, the county never made allowances for falling market values in the real estate recession of the early 1990s, but based its tax bills on the higher 1986 values.

As a result, many property owners have appealed their assessments and won settlements in court, prompting the county to try to develop more accurate values.

County Executive Tom Suozzi, a Democrat who took office in January after the reassessment project was underway, supports efforts to build a more accurate tax roll. 'Revaluation is extremely important and we want it to be successful,' said Liz Botwin, a county attorney.

So far, Suozzi's most notable difference with O'Shea has been his insistence that the county rely exclusively on in-house property appraisers, an option he says is cheaper than hiring contract appraisers. O'Shea said he believes the county should keep the option of using contractors.

O'Shea said he wants to press commercial property owners to supply income and expense statements to the Board of Assessors because it will help Cole Layer Trumble develop more accurate valuations.

Less then 10 percent of property owners responded to the initial request in January. Fromewick said that request was sent out by CLT, and some of his clients mistook it for a solicitation and threw it away.

Jim Keenan, CLT's project manager for the Nassau reassessment, said that while that information would be helpful, it isn't crucial. He said his company has relied heavily on two Mineola appraisal companies - Michael Haberman & Associates and Smith & Salerno Valuation Services - that have 'very considerable' data on local properties.

'We have more information than for any other project we've worked on,' he said.

Richard Bivone, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, said business owners, many of whom have had legal skirmishes with the county, are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward reassessment.

'We just hope that when the reappraisal is done its equitable and fair,' Bivone said.

O'Shea said accuracy is his top priority. 'We hope tax certiorari attorneys will be disappointed by how accurate (revaluations are),' he said.