Since 2010, Danielle Kilkenny has helplessly watched her property tax bill increase by thousands of dollars while her next door neighbor has received a tax bill decrease.
As a Garden City homeowner, Kilkenny, 37, is not alone. Her story is shared by thousands of other homeowners in Nassau Country who are paying significantly higher property taxes than residents in the same neighborhood. In this shift, there are two sides of a tax burden struggle, those who appeal, and those who do not.
Sixty-one percent of the county’s residential and commercial property owners that appealed this period have seen a tax bill increase of only about 5 percent, or $466 in the last seven years. For the remaining 39 percent of property owners who do not appeal, the average tax bill has increased by 35.7 percent, or $2,748 – according to an investigation conducted by Newsday.
When Kilkenny moved in 3 years ago, she expected a bump in her tax bill, but has since started working with an attorney to ensure it doesn’t continue to climb.
“It’s frustrating for sure, because it’s gone up quite a bit. Some of what we know is the person we bought the house from, she was senior and her husband was a veteran, so they were getting extra credits for that. So we knew there was going to be some sort of bump.”
Seven years ago when Edward Mangano, Nassau County Executive, began his tax overhaul, separate property assessments have started an uneven and unequal shift in tax burdens, creating drastic differences in housing taxes between houses of similar value in the same neighborhood.
“We moved in about three years ago and we just started the process with an attorney for a [tax] appeal … Our house is the smallest house by the model in this neighborhood and we haven’t expanded on it yet and we’re paying so much,” Kilkenny said.
She explained her decision to work with an attorney to file an appeal came from the success rate of others going at it alone.
“Yeah we didn’t do it [without an attorney] because we tried it with my mother-in-law on her house and it just immediately kicks back and you get denied. So we figured we’d go with an attorney. Neighbors and friends have done it successfully with that.”
According to the Nassau County New York government website, “You are not required to use an attorney.” when filing for an appeal, but Kilkenny explained that she had witnessed family members and friends attempt to file for an appeal without one and that they were quickly denied.
The website also states that, “If you pay taxes on property in Nassau County you have the right to appeal your property’s annual assessment,” and also offers tips on how to appeal your assessment, yet the many homeowners in Nassau County still remain unaware that not appealing will likely cause their taxes to increase.
The effects of this shift are unbounding. In Nassau neighborhoods owners of smaller and lesser valued houses pay more than larger more expensive ones.
Kilkenny, a member of the audit committee for the school board of Garden City has felt torn between fighting to pay an equal share, and worrying about the cost of doing so.
“I’m actually on the audit committee for the school board in Garden City, so we’re very sensitive to the revenues we have as well. We want to make sure we aren’t losing out either as a district so we can keep running the programs that we’re running. So I’m kind of torn, I don’t want to keep paying more and more but at the same time I don’t want school to lose out either.”
Kilkenny is not the only one who sees the conflict that the system creates.
Theresa Walch a resident of Sea Cliff, NY took to Facebook to air similar concerns with the fairness of the appeal process in Nassau County, “Property owners who trust the system — that is, who get their bill, and pay it — end up being punished. Property owners who fight the system, year after year, reap significant rewards. That’s just wrong in a county where residents pay the highest taxes in the nation — heck, that’s wrong in any county, anywhere.”