Monday, September 26, 2005

Harvey Levinson's Income Tax versus Kate Murray's Property Tax

Let's Blame It All On The Receiver Of Taxes ~ After All, He's Got The Money!

To hear the GOP tell it (evidence those annoying TV spots and the Town of Hempstead Supervisor's press releases), Harvey Levenson, Chair of the Nassau County Board of Assessors, is single-handedly responsible for those outrageous property taxes. "First he gave us the Reassessment, now he wants to give us an income tax..." The nerve of that guy!

Of course, anyone armed with even basic information (which precludes about 95% of the electorate) understands that Harvey Levinson is not responsible for the Reassessment. The Reassessment at full market value was ordered by the courts, and actually began during the tenure of the previous Assessor, Charlie O'Shea. Indeed, O'Shea got the boos and, ultimately, the boot by voters for what turned out to be the administration of the reassessment process that can only be likened to FEMA's response to Katrina. Wrong man for the wrong job, we suppose.

While the Assessment is now at full market value - with most houses in Nassau falling within the range, if not below actual market value - during Harvey Levinson's tenure, the "Assessed Value" or "Level of Assessment" was actually lowered from 1% of full market value to 1/4 of 1% (o.25%) of full market value. In other words, for most homeowners, the Assessed Value has gone DOWN! [See Sample Notice, for illustrative purposes.]

So, if Harvey Levinson and the Board of Assessors REDUCED the Level of Assessment, why do our taxes keep going UP?

While the solutions to the property tax crisis may be complex, the reason your property taxes rise year after year is quite simple - its the TAX RATES!

No, the Assessor does NOT set tax rates, prepare budgets, or collect taxes. The marketplace determines the full market value of your house. The Department of Assessment establishes an Assessed Value - period.

Who, then, does set the TAX RATES, which determine how much tax you pay per $100 of Assessed Value? The County (approximately 20% of your tax bill), The Town and Town Special Districts (approximately 20% of your tax bill), and your school district (approximately 60% of your tax bill).

To blame Harvey Levinson for high property taxes is akin to blaming Don Clavin (the Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes, who COLLECTS the taxes for the County, the Town, the Special Districts and the School Districts) for high property taxes. You can say it, but like those TV ads, it simply isn't true.

As for the proposal to replace the SCHOOL portion of the regressive property tax (tied only to the value of one's house) with a nominal income tax (linked to one's ability to pay), it is but one among several possible solutions put on the table for discussion. We can stick with the current property tax system, and see our school taxes DOUBLE before the decade is out, or we can act now to change the system to something that is more balanced and fair - providing relief to everyone from our college grads to our seniors, and capturing that "hidden population" - the renters - for whom we bear what is truly an unconscionable tax burden.

We all agree that an income tax alone would not be a tenable "fix" for the school tax mess. We need to eliminate waste and consolidate efforts. There must be shared receipts from the taxes generated by commercial enterprises. And Long Island must, at long last, get its fair share of State Aid from Albany. [There can be no excuse, let alone reason, why Long Island school districts receive in the neighborhood of 16% in State Aid while upstate school districts garner some 60%.]

As for trimming the fat at the County and Town, again, consolidate, eliminate, and run a tighter, leaner ship. The County has, with some notable bumps, started down that road. There is, admittedly, a long way to go. The Town has yet to follow suit, and there is little indication of a willingness to take any path other than that which has been traveled for the past 100 years or so.

The property tax and its ramifications is not a Democratic or Republican issue. Neither is finding a solution to a crisis that is quickly reaching the breaking point.

To be fair, Kate Murray didn't create the property tax any more than Harvey Levinson is responsible for the reassessment. Those TV commercials are no more than campaign fluff - the Swift Boats of our time. On the other hand, the Town Supervisor, through both her control of Town tax rates and the lack of control (real or professed) of the tax rates set by the Special Districts, does increase our tax burden. [In 2005, this burden was increased on the Town level by some 12.8%, purported surplus notwithstanding.]

As for what to do about the ever-skyrocketing property tax, other than to blast Harvey Levinson, Supervisor Murray is strangely silent. Whatever became of, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem?"

Come to think of it, wasn't it Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin who revised the look of our Tax Statements so that we can now see quite plainly where every penny of our tax dollar goes? What was muddled is now crystal clear. Why, when we didn't have a clue as to where our tax dollars were siphoned off to, life was simpler, times were easier, and the price of gas was cheaper. Its all Don Clavin's fault. Don Clavin, and those nasty Nassau County Democrats. Yeah, that's the ticket!
- - -
Read Lawrence C. Levy's column in Newsday, Time for Honest Debate of Property Tax Options.


  1. BRAVO! You've reduced the property tax problem - with all of its manifestations - to its simplest form, one that we can all understand.

    Tell me? Why isn't the Long Island delegation to the State Legislature fighting for our fair share of the State School Aid pie? Do we Long Islanders really have that little clout?

    If not an income tax as part of the plan to REPLACE the outrageous and unbearable property tax, then what? We are all open to ideas (including, I'm sure, Harvey Levinson).

    One thing is certain -- we cannot continue the way we've been headed without reaching failsafe.

    The County, while they certainly have made mistakes, at least is trying to get us out of the hole. Indeed, we can finally see the light of day, financially.

    The Town of Hempstead, on the other hand, seems content to just dig that hole deeper and deeper. Where does it end?

    All politics is, as they say, local, and it is locally - at the Town level - where a change of direction is most needed. We have a choice here - and certainly, that all critical "control." We can continue to do nothing, or we can grab the bull (and there's plenty of it) by the horns and do something. I say, let's get off our duffs and DO SOMETHING!

  2. Full Market Value that is the TRUE problem!

    How many people feel that a house let's say bought in 1995 for $160,000 is NOW worth $520,000 is TRUE MARKET VALUE???

    An increase almost over 300% in 10 years???

    Who sets these FAIR market values???

  3. To ncres4change: You must be living in a fog -- or in a different Town!

    On my block in Seaford, new single-family houses were constructed circa 1983, selling for around $130,000. [We thought that price tag was too high!] Last year, one of those houses sold for over $500,000. In the last few months, another was on the market for close to $600,000.]

    Are the prices of Long Island's houses out of sight? Well, duh. Right now, that's what the market will bring. [If you don't believe me, look at the Real Estate section in Newsday to see what houses are actually selling for.] Yes, houses have appreciated beyond all reason in just 10 years. Blame it on the crazy market, NOT the reassessment.

    Even assuming Nassau continued to value homes at 1938 construction costs as under the old system - so instead of, say, an $11,000 assessed value, you had but a $7,000 assessed value - it is the tax rates that would be adjusted (upward, of course) by the Town, the County, the School Districts to meet budgetary demands. [Which is why the STAR program is such a joke. You get a credit on the school portion of your tax, and the school district has to increase the tax rate in order to make up for the resulting shortfall.]

    If you want a reality check, take a look at the full market value of your property as stated on your most recent tax bill/statement. In all likelihood, the stated market value is at or near what your house would bring on the open market. In fact, it is probably LOWER than what you could get in this market.

    Of course, if you'd like to sell your house for the $160,000 you believe its market value to be - or somewhere in that ballpark - I'm sure I could find you more than a few bona fide purchasers, all with cash in hand!

  4. It is odd to see Ncres4Change complain about his house being overvalued. Isn't that why we buy homes in the first place? So that they appreciate in value and create a nice nest egg to rely on later in life? If the market is telling you your house is worth $520K, why are on earth are you trying to say it's not worth that much?

    If the Levinson campaign could boil the message down in the original post to 30 seconds, they would have a great ad that effectively refutes the outright lies the Republicans are spreading about the assessment and your taxes.

    Apparently, the Republicans campaign strategy is to simply lie, facts be damned. The truth simply does not matter. Get it out there and let the Democrats play defense. It will be just a matter of time before they start saying the Harvey Levinson boils bunnies in pots and likes to take candy from children. It's an insult to our intelligence that they think they can put these outrageous falsehoods by us.

  5. "Boils bunnies in pots? Gosh, Joe. How did we let that one slip by?" :-)

    We must be that dumb, chester arthur, because they have been insulting our intelligence, putting "outrageous falsehoods by us," for years.

    And the "they" we refer to is not necessarily the Republicans -- it is, in this instance, an archaic political Machine, to which the Nassau GOP has, unfortunately, tehtered itself.

    In the long run - if not the short haul - that Machine will serve only as an anchor, pulling down every decent GOP standard bearer to the briney depths. Hopefully, the good folks in the party (and there are MANY), though loyal to party and ideology, will unshackle themselves from this sputtering Machine and jump ship before that rusty anchor takes us all down.

    Oh, and by the way -- The babes have no candy for Harvey Levinson to take. We had to sell it to pay the property tax!

  6. For anyone who is a non-believer, here's a recent article from Newsday concerning the sharp rise in values in Nassau County's housing market:

    Median home prices on Long Island rise again

    Home values rise, reaching $500,000 in Nassau, but experts say pace will soon slow


    September 13, 2005

    When Dennis Muldoon bought a three-bedroom ranch in Bethpage in 1968, the young New York City police officer thought it could one day be worth a whole $100,000. The purchase was a big and scary move for Muldoon and his wife, MaryAnn, who had to take out a loan to make the $1,000 down payment on the $21,000 house.

    As it turns out, Muldoon, whose house is fairly typical for Long Island, was on the low side with his estimate, according to figures released yesterday.

    For the first time, the median price of homes in Nassau County reached the half-million-dollar mark.

    The median price of homes sold in August in Suffolk was $400,000; in Queens, it was $450,000, according to the report by the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island.

    The median Nassau home price of $500,000 is up 10.6 percent from August 2004, while Islandwide the median price is up 11.8 percent.

    Yet, in a possible sign of a slowdown, the increase in home prices has been more moderate than in recent years. In August 2004, the median home price Islandwide had jumped 13.3 percent from the same period of the year before.

    And, according to the MLS report, inventory went up to 20,485 in August, a 23.7 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

    Given these figures, some believe a dip in home prices is on the horizon.

    "This may be one of the last times we're going to see one of these increases," said Irwin Kellner, Weller professor of economics at Hofstra University and North Fork Bank's chief economist. Although building restrictions and the relatively strong Long Island economy have helped boost prices in recent years, the cost of energy has jumped in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which would lead to a hike in long-term interest rates, Kellner said.

    "Lots of people are looking to cash in, fearing the bubble may break anytime now," he said. "It's only a matter of time before the housing market, even here on Long Island, begins to soften."

    Joan Battaglia, an associate broker with Daniel Gale Associates in East Hills, already sees the signs. As houses are left unsold, sellers are slashing prices on a wide range of homes, a phenomenon seen earlier with the high-end houses, she said.

    "It's pretty much hitting every market, I believe. It trickles down," said Battaglia, adding that there are so many open houses these days that buyers can drive around without a real estate agent and have their pick of which house they want to look at. "Times are changing a little bit."

    Dennis Muldoon, now retired, believes the house he scraped to buy for $21,000 more than 30 years ago, recently renovated, is worth at least $550,000.

    "We had a friend who kept telling me, 'You cannot afford not to buy this house,'" he said. "Well, he was right."

    Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

  7. Has Levinson put out any results of his study to replace the school property with an income tax? I'd like to see some hard numbers before I'm sold on it. In theory, the plan seems to be a more fair way of collecting school tax by hitting up those who could really afford it, and it might bring some actual relief to those of us who could no longer afford the houses we currently own, particularly our seniors. But there are alot of uncertainties invloved.

    First of all, does anyone know if he proposes to keep revenue generated within each school district in that school district or redistribute it throughout all districts? Either way, the plan has some serious deficiencies:

    Regarding the latter, I would imagine that districts with a high concentration of commercial properties would not be too into any kind of redistribution, as that would obviously reduce their inflow of tax revenue. As a West Hempstead resident, I'd love to tap into the income tax generated by workers at Rosevelt Field and 'the Hub', but I don't think Garden City would exactly be in favor of that idea.

    If on the other hand, the plan is to keep the tax revenue local, then communities who's commercial tax base consists more of office space and less of warehouse-type space would benefit disproportionally to others, as their amount of revenue would be measured by the amount of income generated by workers in their district. Conversely, districts that contain many warehouse or vacant commerical properties would lose out, as the income tax revenue generated from the few workers in that district would not match the property tax revenue they curently receive from the owners of these large properties.

    Also, regarding hitting the 'hidden population', keep in mind that a good number of these illegal renters are illegal themselves, and therefore undoubtedly make their money off the books.

    In short, there seems to be alot of questions with such a plan. It would be nice to know if this has ever been tried anywhere else and if so, if it was a successful transition.

  8. Can I buy someones home for 160 thousand? I would like 3 for that price at least my 3 kids can still stay here. Wake up come out and take a good look around. The GOP should have taken care of business instead they took care of themselves. As far as the State Legislators , you got that right we should have thrown them out long ago. But go to our schhols and you will see them there briming how much money they brought back home with them don't look at your tax bill because I don't think they look either. Change Change Change is the onle way and if these guys don't get it right than change again.

  9. You have all MISSED the point - I bought my house in 1995 for $160K 10years later it's worth $520K according to the assesors offic e that is for the 2005/2006 TAXES for 2007/2008 their estimating my house will be worth $560K - +$40K in ONE YEAR - At this rate HELL I could wait 10 more years and sell it for $960K - I WANT TO KNOW WHERE THEY GET THERE NUMBERS FROM ESPECIALLY THE ESTIMATED INCREASES ???

    Especially since all market analysts anticipate a drop in housing costs not an INCREASE????

    Harvey Levinson and his income tax plan ???

    Guess if he wins as TOH Supervisor that his jurisdiction with extend that far huh???

    If he's running for the TOH then maybe he should have some ISSUES to bring up about the TOH & not just consolidation and special tax district problems!!!

    Let's get over the sanitation districts those residents in those communities need to get involved and put an end to the problems!!!






  10. Hey ncres4change:

    According to the National Association of Realtors, the median existing house prices for Nassau-Suffolk in 1999 was $190K. (see

    For 2005, they project it to be $446K. (see$FILE/July2005.pdf) That's an annual average increase of almost $43K.

    You bought your house in 1995 for $160K. In the 2006 tax year, they assessed your house at $520K. That means over an 11 year period your house increased only an average of almost $33K a year (only a 20% average annual increase), a much lower rate of appreciation compared to the 23% annual average for Nassau-Suffolk over their six year study period.

    So I'd say you got jipped. You should call the assessors office and tell them they underestimated the value of your home.

  11. Your absolutely right on one thing "For 2005, they project it to be $446K" right now the assesors office is taxing me based on my house being worth $520K for a Cape on 50x100 property ????

    And by the way the price of $190K came out in 1999 - I bought my house in 1995 - for $158K

    Back then if you figure the difference of $32K over 4 years = $8K and from 1999-2005 the average increased what 500%

    Now you see where I'm coming from?

  12. NCRes4Change, if you really want to understand your assessment and how you are taxed, Harvey Levinson will meet you at the Franklin Square Library to explain how it works. Oh... wait a minute, he's been banned from speaking there.

    That's too bad because earlier this spring he spoke at the West Hempstead Civic Association public meeting and explained how the assessment works in a clear and understandable manner.

    If the market starts to soften and home prices fall, then your assessment will be adjusted accordingly. If the assesors office is taxing you based on your house being worth $520K, well that's because that's what homes are going for in your area. Call relators and look in Newsday to see what homes are going for in your area.

    Stop complaining about your assessment and look at what homes are selling for in your neighborhood. Lastly, just what exactly is it about the assessment system that you would like Harvey to fix? Be more specific.

  13. Ok Since you brought it up let's talk about West Hempstead - You say Harvey Levinson went there to discuss the Assesments right??

    He went there and caused a RIOT!!!

    He went in talking about the assesment and told the residents that the reason there taxes are so high are because they have no commercial tax areas and that the special districts mainly the Fire Department, were the reason their taxes are so high not their property taxes!!!

    So instead of explaining the process he simply blamed the Fire Department for their troubles???

    Sounds like a good plan don't answer any questions just pass the blame onto someone else???

    And I have looked at the comparative properties that I am being compared to, that's why I filed an appeal over 8 months ago and still no word, no correspondence, nothing!!!

    How do you compare a 2 bedroom, 1 bath house with no garage to 3 bedroom, 2-2 1/2 bath house with a garage????

    That is what my problem is with the assesment system because he is not doing anything the houses that are compared to mine are not even in my immediate area where the houses are very similar???

    It doesn't take a genius to figure out what is going on, their just comparing the houses with anything and raising the taxes the average home owner won't appeal and will just pay the price increase that is how they get away with it!

    My complaint is just one example think of how many other residents are in NC that feel the same way, How is Harvey Levinson going to resolve these issues???


    So then it will be someone elses problem no his????

    Like I have repeatedly posted he's doing nothing as usual look at his past track record - he just keeps doing the old political 2 step from job to job - JACK OF ALL TRADES A MASTER OF NONE!!!!!


  14. Riot at the West Hempstead Civic Association meeting when Harvey Levinson spoke? That's news to us, and we were there!

    We obviously need a or here at The Community Alliance blog. [Not to mention Spell Check - Its M-O-R-O-N!]:-)

    Nice to see so many comments on the blog. We welcome all, and, again, invite those so inclined to submit Guest Blogs for publication.

    Election Day is November 8th!

  15. So you were there too huh??

    Deny the fact that he moved the interest of assesment and taxes too their local fire department and that they are the reason their taxes are so high??

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