Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano on Monday announced the appointment of Gregory Hild to handle the search for a new county assessor in the wake of last week's firing of Ted Jankowski.
Hild, the former Smithtown assessor who most recently served as a special assistant to Smithtown supervisor Patrick Vecchio, was named the 2010 "Assessor of the Year" by the New York State Assessors' Association. He will head a transition team to thoroughly review the department of assessment.
In announcing the appointment at a press conference, Mangano said, "I am committed to restoring the public's faith in our assessment system while protecting homeowners and employers from an unfair and broken system."
Mangano axed Jankowski Friday morning following complaints from Hempstead and Oyster Bay town tax receivers about numerous errors in this month's school assessment roll, the biggest of which was a $1.3 million school tax bill on the county executive and legislative building, which is normally tax-exempt.
The county must pay the $1.3 million bill to the Garden City School District because of the county's longtime guarantee to shoulder the cost of erroneous assessments for itself, school districts and other municipalities.
Mangano, who said he would fix inaccurate assessments before the guarantee expires in 2012, estimated that the total errors made by the assessment department over the last several years account for half of Nassau's $2.6 billion in debt.
Mangano has asked Hild to recommend improvements to the assessment department and to identify candidates for the position of county assessor. Joining Hild on the transition team are deputy comptroller Joy Watson, chief deputy county attorney Lisa LoCurto, deputy county attorney Dan Valentino, deputy assessor Jim Davis and department of assessment financial systems administrator Tom Albanese.
"We know we have a huge undertaking in front of us," said Hild, who retired this year after 25 years as Smithtown's assessor. "We are going to look under all the rocks and into all the crevices."
Mangano said Nassau's "broken property tax assessment system" costs taxpayers $250 million annually and has nearly bankrupted the county. "Our homeowners and employers will greatly benefit from a full review conducted by chairman Hild," he said.
Comptroller George Maragos announced at the press conference that he would conduct "a forensic audit to determine how these errors occurred, the extent of the problems and what should be done to ensure they don't happen again."