Anton Community Newspapers  •  132 East 2nd Street  •  Mineola, NY 11501  •  Phone: 516-747-8282  •  FAX: 516-742-5867
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Suozzi Redux?

Plans still undisclosed for school tax certiorari

The probability of former Nassau County Supervisor Tom Suozzi getting his old job back from Edward Mangano will hinge on how he handles the bane of any Nassau resident’s existence—taxes.

During a visit last week to the Anton Community Newspapers’ office in Mineola – days after he announced his decision to run - Suozzi was pointed in his criticism of the county’s desire to pass the County Guarantee Reform Act, which makes schools, villages and towns pay their share of tax certiorari refunds for incorrect assessments.

“What the county did this year is that they settled every SCAR (Small Claims Assessment Review) case no matter what,” he said. “We would have liked to have settled everyone too but you can’t, because some of them are bogus claims. What [this administration] did was the politically popular thing to do and make all these people happy by saying they settled all [these cases] quickly. They actually gave away more assessments on these guys but put more [financial] burdens on other people.”

If tax cap was last year’s buzz word, then expect tax certiorari to be the phrase that will be a constant, particularly as school districts like Garden City, are rolling their sleeves up to grapple with the 2013-14 budget. With some help from the Garden City Teachers Association re-negotiating its contract last year, the school board was able to apply approximately $675,000 savings towards staying under the 2 percent tax cap. But should the County Guarantee Reform Act pass muster in the courts, where’s it currently in litigation, the Garden City school district’s ability to stay below the two percent property tax cap will be severely hindered. It’s a major concern for Dr. Robert Feirsen, the district’s school superintendent.

“One of the most significant [expenses] for our school district [are these] tax certiorari lawsuits that could be millions of dollars,” explained Feirsen. “We’ve never had to contend with that before, because when the county acknowledged that they made the error, they would pay the damages. Now the county shifted that to the school districts and potentially millions of dollars to Garden City.”

The current handling of tax certiorari lawsuits has certainly caught Suozzi’s attention, given his view on how unfair the end result is to school districts around the county. It’s an issue he’s given a lot of thought to, although he wasn’t quite ready to offer any solutions just yet.

“I don’t think we should be doing it that way. It’s still the same problem, we’re just having [these lawsuits] paid by the school districts instead of being paid by the county and just shifting the burden,” he exclaimed. “I’m going to come out with a more detailed assessment plan during the course of the campaign. I have some very interesting ideas that I’ve been noodling with some smart people but I’m not prepared to discuss it yet.”

Complicating matters more is the fact that the added incurred expense from tax certiorari lawsuits is not exempt from the 2 percent cap Garden City and all other school districts are expected to stay below. It’s an understandable source of frustration and consternation for Dr. Feirsen, particularly given how inequitable feels the situation is.

“If we’re sitting on a few million bucks in terms of tax refunds that we are liable for, that basically eats up all of the allowable increases [within the cap] and then some,” he said. “[It] makes any increase within the tax levy cap ridiculous because we now have all these millions of dollars of lawsuits that we’re responsible for, and we have nothing to do with assessments.”