For Jeff Pravato, the road to public service started in the mid-’90s, when the Massapequa Park resident went to town hall to find a solution to a flooding situation he was dealing with. Flash forward to 2020 and he is succeeding Jim Stefanich as the Town of Oyster Bay Receiver of Taxes, an office the latter had held for two decades. Pravato will spend the next four years handling the billing of property taxes on more than 100,000 parcels of land and acting as a tax collection agency for the state, county and Town of Oyster Bay, along with its special districts and school districts. He’ll also be tasked with maintaining records and mapping parcels of land. Pravato’s most recent work on the town level included his serving as a deputy to his predecessor.
“Being the receiver of taxes is something I really like, given my financial background. I was looking to do more improvements that I see other receivers’ offices do that the current office wasn’t doing,” he said. “Jim [Stefanich] has been there 20 years and he’s done an amazing job in the time he’s been there. I’ve been working in the office as a deputy for the last number of months. He brought them in from the 20th to the 21st century over there. He’s done a really great job. I want to continue that and expand on that over time.”
Having spent the past six years of his political career as Massapequa Park mayor, he’ll be bringing that experience of helping residents to a much larger stage. It’s his favorite part of public service, starting with his decision to extend office hours for tax collection during the last two days leading up to the Feb. 10 deadline.
“Right off the bat, what we’re doing is during the last two days of collection, we’re keeping extended hours. Current hours are 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.,” Pravato explained. “What we’re going to do during the last two days of collection is enable residents to go before or after work to deal with their taxes. The hours will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.”
Among the other improvements the new receiver of taxes is looking to institute is enabling residents to pay taxes with cash or credit card at Town Hall South (located at 977 Hicksville Rd. in Massapequa). Currently, taxpayers can only do this at Town Hall North (situated at 54 Audrey Ave. in Oyster Bay).
“We want to make it easier for residents so they don’t have to drive up to Oyster Bay all the way from Hicksville if they want to pay in person by credit card,” he said. “We’re also looking into allowing residents to get their bills or receipts online via email if they choose to. This way we can save money on postage.”
Pravato’s financial acumen was honed over a 25-year career spent as an institutional sales trader for a number of brokerage firms, including Morgan Stanley and the Royal Bank of Canada. Combined with his six-year mayoral run, Pravato is eager to roll up his sleeves and serve Oyster Bay residents the same way he did with his Massapequa Park constituents.
“I connected great with my [Massapequa Park] residents and I’m going to connect great with the residents of the Town of Oyster Bay to get things done. We’re going to have tax grievance workshops. We’re going to have tax exemption workshops. We’re going around to a lot of the senior centers and making sure our seniors are getting everything they deserve with their grievances and senior discounts,” he said. “We’re going to go to VFW halls and make sure they’re getting veterans discounts that they deserve. The outreach I’ve done has been great in terms of working with the people. Making government that works for the people is what I’m going to be doing. I want to continue what I’ve been doing, except on a much larger scale.”
Pravato admits one of the biggest obstacles he’ll face in his new role is helping taxpayers navigate through the red tape jungle of assessments.
“The Nassau County assessments are the biggest challenge. I want to help people challenge their assessments for free and make sure they are paying what they should be playing. Some people come in and we’ll ask why they don’t have a particular discount if they’re over 65 years of age or if they’re a veteran. And we’ll point out if they didn’t file for this or that particular discount,” he said. “We want to make people aware that if they change anything on their deed, they will have to make sure to update their STAR and veteran discounts because it has to be redone again. If they don’t do that, then they’ll drop off those lists and see a dramatic increase in their taxes.”
While Pravato will have to serve a far larger pool of residents, it falls in line with what attracted him to public service in the first place.
“People often think I hated having people call me over the weekend that they had this or that problem. Or if someone texted me at eight o’clock in the morning on Saturday about some issue they have. But I really love taking care of that kind of stuff,” he said. “When someone comes up to you with a problem and you provide a solution, it’s really rewarding to know you took care of something that might not seem that detrimental, but might actually be devastating to some people.”