Error Lands Nassau County In Sewer Mess

Nassau villages to be overcharged on their sewer tax bills
County Executive Laura Curran addresses an error with sewer taxes. (Photo by Steve Mosco)

An error in last year’s county budget caused homeowners in several Nassau villages to be overcharged on their sewer tax bills last month—forcing officials to scramble for solutions.

Residents in the villages—Mineola, Garden City, Hempstead, Freeport and Rockville Centre—received county property tax bills with a hike of about 75 percent on the sewer disposal line. That tax increase was supposed to be only 0.8 percent, but an accounting error by the outgoing Ed Mangano administration passed the entire cost of sewage fees to residents in upwards of $600 for each homeowner.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who took office in January, held a press conference on Monday announcing the errors and pushing for legislation to adjust the tax bill and issue refunds to those residents who were overcharged and already paid their taxes in full or issue a corrected tax bill for second half payments. At the press conference, Curran also charged that the county Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must modernize its outdated systems and adopt internal controls to assure a similar error does not happen again.

“All told this is about a $10 million error that affected 34,000 residents in the Town of Hempstead alone,” said Curran. “We have three levels of government here today—village, town and county—and this is a problem we will all solve together.”

Curran will also issue a letter to Comptroller Jack Schnirman requesting a review of the final internal controls proposed by the OMB.

“We knew we were inheriting a mess,” said Curran, adding that a sewer fund surplus will aid in filling the budgetary gap left by reimbursing residents. “As we move forward, we will address each problem we find as quickly as possible. I will count on bipartisan support from the legislature to correct the sewer charges.”

The sewer tax hike, the first in close to a decade, was proposed by the Mangano administration to fix county sewers. Mangano did not seek reelection this past fall as he fights federal corruption charges.

“The taxpayers of Nassau county deserve competence in every aspect of their local government,” said Curran. “We intend to provide it.”

Some of the first reports of the error came from Legislators Debra Mulé of Freeport and Laura Schaefer of Westbury.

“This is an unnecessary hardship and it is imperative that appropriate oversight is enacted to make sure this never happens again,” said Mulé. “I look forward to resolving this distressing matter.”

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