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Hempstead Town Receiver Don Clavin and a tenacious Lynbrook resident announced some good news for homeowners who have been left in the dark about the “secret formula” that Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and her hand-picked Assessor used to develop new home values under an error-riddled county reassessment project. The project, which will hike property taxes for hundreds of thousands of area residents, has been shrouded in secrecy. That may soon change, however, since a March 13th letter from the New York State Committee on Open Government opined that County Executive Laura Curran improperly denied access to tax assessment details by invoking an arcane “TRADE SECRETS” loophole in the law. As a result, Clavin and the Lynbrook homeowner demanded that the County Executive and her Assessor, David Moog, immediately disclose all of reassessment’s “dirty little secrets” so that property owners can make informed decisions on whether to challenge their property taxes.
“It is outrageous that Nassau County Executive Laura Curran would try to deny homeowners critical information on how her administration developed property tax assessments, the very basis upon which property taxes are based,” said Clavin, “Hundreds of thousands of residents are facing tax hikes as a result of the County Executive’s reassessment project, and Laura Curran refuses to share the ‘secret formula’ that she and her hand-picked assessor used to arrive at the new property tax values. Thankfully, the State’s Committee on Open Government has stepped in, calling, ‘foul.’ It is time for the County Executive to stop trying to hide behind an arcane ‘trade secrets’ loophole in the law…it’s time to provide homeowners the information to which they are entitled. The Committee on Open Government has spoken, and the County Executive should listen.”
In a scathing indictment of the County Executive’s refusal to release detailed information on how home values were developed under her reassessment, the New York State Committee on Open Government declared, “Importantly, agencies and private corporations should not be permitted to claim trade secret status over algorithms used to make important governmental decisions.” The information that the County Executive has steadfastly refused to share with Nassau’s homeowners relates to the arithmetical computer calculations (also known as algorithms) that were used to assign home values under reassessment. Indeed, the Lynbrook resident was rebuffed three times by Nassau’s Administration before receiving welcome news from the State’s Committee on Open Government. First, he requested the information in a letter to County Executive Laura Curran (December 12, 2018). Subsequently, he made a formal Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) inquiry (January 3, 2019), and, finally, the resident appealed the denial of his FOIL query (February 6, 2019). Running up against the Nassau Assessor’s constant roadblocks, the frustrated property owner wrote to the New York State Committee on Open Government, seeking vindication for Nassau’s over 400,000 homeowners who have been denied critical details on the creation of new home values under reassessment. In a victory for Nassau’s property owners, the State Committee opined that County Executive Laura Curran improperly denied the public information on the calculation of homeowners’ property values by invoking the “trade secrets” loophole in the FOIL law.
“I am pleased that the State’s Committee on Open Government has stepped in, supporting my position that homeowners have a right to know about the methods and calculations used to assign home values under Laura Curran’s reassessment,” stated Clavin. “Residents want to know what the County Executive is hiding and why she won’t tell them important information about their soaring property taxes.”
In a March 13, 2019 response letter to the Lynbrook resident, the New York State Committee on Open Government made it clear that they believed residents should not be denied information on the arithmetic calculations (also referred to as algorithms) used by Nassau County’s consultant (vendor) in assigning property tax values under reassessment. The Committee stated, “In our view, since the vendor’s algorithm is used to calculate residential property values (per the County’s February 22, 2019 appeal determination), ‘important government decisions,’ neither the vendor, nor the County should be permitted to claim trade secret status over the algorithm.” The letter also said, “…claims of trade secret should be fundamentally improper when they prevent disclosure under FOIL of algorithms used to make key governmental decisions.”
“Nassau County Executive Laura Curran claims that her reassessment is open and transparent when it is abundantly clear that it is anything but that,” said Clavin. “The reassessment has been an unmitigated disaster, rife with errors, miscues, misinformation and a total lack of openness. It is understandable that nobody, even those who will see their taxes drop under reassessment, trusts the County Executive’s reassessment project. Why won’t Laura Curran release reassessment’s ‘secret formula’, what is she hiding?”
(HEMPSTEAD, NY) Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen announced that her administration successfully facilitated a new contract between Haugland Energy Group LLC and the Hempstead Village Fire Department to store construction equipment being used as a part of a $700 million FEMA grant to upgrade storm hardiness of utility poles and other electrical infrastructure in the Town.
The Hempstead Village Fire Department began storing the equipment earlier this month on vacant land at their fire training facility on Weir Ave in the Village of Hempstead.
“The former administration’s misguided decision to store this equipment at Greenfield cemetery was not only illegal, but deeply disrespectful to countless families who have loved ones buried there,” said Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen. “I’m pleased my administration was able to find a suitable, alternative location that will now provide additional revenue to our volunteer firefighters.”
Under the new contract, Haugland Energy Group will pay the Hempstead Village Fire Department $5,000 per month, the same amount being paid to the Town, for storage space.
Councilman Anthony D’Esposito presents a Town of Hempstead Certificate of Recognition to Rosanne Irwin, owner of Hewlett Jewelers, during his tour of women-owned businesses in celebration of Women’s History Month.
Town of Hempstead Councilman Anthony D’Esposito visited women owned businesses in his district to recognize their extraordinary contributions to their communities as as part of his initiative to spotlight outstanding women during Women’s History Month. March is Women’s History Month and highlights the contributions of women to events in history and society.
“I am proud to recognize women business owners for their significant contributions to local commerce here in America’s largest township,” stated Councilman D’Esposito. “Local businesses help our small communities to thrive, and these women demonstrate leadership coupled with a passion for their business as well as a love for the community.”
According to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), more than 9.4 million firms are owned by women, employing nearly 7.9 million people, and generating $1.5 trillion in sales as of 2015. In addition, one in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is woman-owned.
“It is important to shop local to support our small businesses which are the backbone of our local communities and contribute to our local economy,” added D’Esposito.
On Saturday, March 16th Councilman D’Esposito visited of number of women-owned businesses within his district including:
“In celebration of Women’s History Month and of all women who have forged a path for future generations of women, I am honored to spotlight these exceptional women business owners,” concluded D’Esposito. “Their businesses serve as great models for our next generation of entrepreneurs.”
Hempstead Town Receiver Don Clavin today joined with a frustrated homeowner who has been stonewalled in his quest to receive details on the calculation of his home’s reassessment by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s reassessment team. Speaking for homeowners who have been stymied by the lack of transparency and detailed information in the reassessment process, Clavin demanded that the County Executive stop hiding behind a “trade secrets” provision in the law to keep the public in the dark on the details on how Nassau developed new property tax assessments. In specific, the homeowner and Clavin are asking for information on the arithmetical computer calculations that were used to calculate home values, a subject that has been shrouded in secrecy and a topic that the County Executive refuses to disclose.
“It is outrageous that Laura Curran expects residents to unquestioningly accept her newly assigned property tax values on homes, especially since her administration refuses to disclose critical details regarding the calculation of property tax values,” said Clavin. “Couple this with the fact that the County Executive’s signature reassessment project has been riddled with errors, miscues and embarrassing gaffs, and it is understandable that homeowners have ‘zero confidence’ in the reassessment project. It is time for Nassau’s Administration to stop hiding behind the law, invoking arcane ‘trade secrets’ provisions, instead of seeking ways to provide real answers to Nassau neighbors.”
The latest frustrating “slap in the face” to taxpayers has come in the form of the county administration’s refusal to disclose information relating to the “algorithm” or computer calculation that is central to determining property assessments, which directly affect the amount of taxes paid by homeowners. In particular, a Lynbrook resident who requested information regarding the computer “algorithm” was told by Nassau Assessment Department staff that they could not reveal details on the calculations because the formula was “in the computer.” Another incomprehensible excuse on why the Assessor’s Office could not share the “secret formula” included the statement, “We used big data.” After sending a polite and concise written request for information, which was promptly rebuffed, the homeowner filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to secure the information.
Responding to the request for information, which merely sought an explanation on the formula used to calculate new property tax assessments, the Curran Administration steadfastly refused to provide any useful information. Understandably, the property owner appealed the administration’s refusal to provide responsive information. Instead of seeking to assist the homeowner, County Executive Laura Curran’s attorney responded that the administration would not share the “secret formula” because it was protected under the “TRADE SECRETS” exemption of FOIL.
“Laura Curran keeps telling us that her reassessment is the most transparent and open reassessment project anywhere,” said Clavin. “If that is true, why would she hide behind a ‘TRADE SECRETS’ exemption in the law rather than trying to give useful information to Nassau’s homeowners?”
The administration contends that the algorithm being utilized is proprietary information belonging to a subcontractor on the reassessment project. However, the homeowner is not seeking the “programming specifications,” which a company might understandably seek to protect. Instead, the homeowner is trying to secure the “functional specifications,” which would provide residents with a detailed explanation regarding the effective information and the impact of the algorithm on assessments.
“It is disgraceful that County Executive Laura Curran has gone to great lengths to block the flow of information on highly-secretive reassessments,” stated Clavin. “Rather, her hand-picked assessor should be seeking ways in which Nassau could provide the information that homeowners deserve while complying with any legal constraints that may exist. Residents have a right to know the facts surrounding the County Executive’s reassessment project and how it will impact their home values and taxes.”
The Receiver pointed out that the refusal of the county administration to provide information on how property tax assessments have been developed will make it virtually impossible for homeowners to effectively challenge their taxes. The Receiver wondered if the “TRADE SECRETS” maneuver is an intentional strategy on the part of the Laura Curran Administration to quash tax challenges by Nassau residents.
“How does Nassau expect homeowners to grieve unfair tax assessments when they refuse to provide full information on how home values have been developed?” Clavin asked. “This process is secretive and unfair, and I will stand with homeowners in demanding real transparency and openness. Taxpayers deserve better.”
Joined by a group of brave veterans at Levittown’s VFW Post No. 9592, Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin, Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney and Councilman Dennis Dunne, Sr., today announced legislation that would increase the benefits of the Cold War Veterans Exemption to the maximum allowed under New York State law. There are about 1,800 recipients of the Cold War Veterans Exemption in the Town of Hempstead.
As the cost of living continues to wreak havoc on the wallets of Long Island’s veterans, Clavin, King Sweeney and Dunne are pushing for legislation that would increase the benefit to those who served in active military, navy or air service of the United States between September 2, 1945 and December 26, 1991. While the exemption provides for up to a 15 percent reduction for eligible recipients, increasing the Cold War Veterans Exemption to the maximum level allowed by state law will help these brave homeowners save more on their property taxes.
“We’ve increased the allowable exemption to the maximum allowed by state law, which would assist our brave veterans as they contend with the high cost of living on Long Island,” Clavin said. “The Cold War was a critical period in our nation’s history, and we want to do what we can to ensure that these American heroes are granted the same tax relief as their fellow veterans.”
This increase comes over a year after Clavin wrote legislation, which was sponsored by King Sweeney and Dunne and approved by the Town Board, to make the Cold War Veterans exemption permanent. When the Cold War Veterans Exemption was originally passed by the Town of Hempstead in 2008, it had been limited to 10 years under previous New York State law. But a change in New York State law granted municipalities the opportunity to “opt-in” and make the exemption permanent, as long as the veteran or the unremarried surviving spouse remains a homeowner.
“It’s important for us to pay tribute to our Cold War veterans by providing them with the tax break that they deserve,” King Sweeney said. “Last year we took the first step by making the exemption permanent; now by boosting the exemption to the maximum allowed by the state, these well-deserving Hempstead Town homeowners can save on their property tax bills.”
Dunne, a proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps who served during the Vietnam War and President of the Levittown/Island Trees Veterans Council, expressed his full support for the legislation.
“Cold War veterans served during a crucial period in the history of our nation and the world,” Dunne said. “They deserve the same treatment and respect as all veterans, and I wholeheartedly support this legislation to enhance tax relief for these brave men and women.”
Veterans who could be eligible for the tax break include those who served in active military, naval or air service of the United States between September 2, 1945 and December 26, 1991 and their surviving spouses who have not remarried and maintain their primary residences within the Town of Hempstead.
For applications and instructions, visit the Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes webpage at hempsteadny.gov/tax-exemptions.
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