Nassau Legislature, state Senate move toward senior tax break renewal

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The Nassau County Executive and Legislative Building as seen in Garden City. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

Nassau County legislators on Monday formally asked the state Legislature to renew a property tax discount for senior citizens that expired at the end of last year.

The 19-member county Legislature unanimously approved an emergency resolution calling on Albany lawmakers to restore the tax break for Nassau residents age 65 and older who make less than $86,000 a year.

“We’re glad to see in this Legislature’s effort that the majority and the minority are able to come together, work together, to benefit the seniors in this county,” Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) said.

The discount, first enacted in 2002, expired Dec. 31 without any notice to affected taxpayers or effort by County Executive Edward Mangano to get it renewed.

The “home rule message” the Legislature approved Monday is required for the state government to renew the law.

About 35,000 taxpayers lost a 5.5 percent property tax discount on their property tax bills when the law expired, causing some tax bills to rise by more than $200, according to county and state officials.

“It’s intended to be retroactive and of course to make our seniors whole,” Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said.

The state Senate also passed legislation Monday to renew the discount indefinitely and give refunds to seniors who already paid the higher taxes.

State Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and Deputy Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) have sponsored similar Assembly legislation.

“Allowing Nassau County to restore this program and the valuable tax savings it provides will make it easier for seniors to continue to stay in the communities they helped build,” state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) said in a statement.

Phillips sponsored the Senate bill with senators Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and John Brooks (D-Seaford).

The tax break was first approved as an extension of the state’s school tax relief program after then-County Executive Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, imposed a 19.3 percent property tax increase for 2003.

Its expiration prompted a political sparring match involving Mangano, a Republican facing federal corruption charges, Lavine and county Comptroller George Maragos, both Democrats running to replace him as county executive.

The county Legislature’s resolution assigned blame to Democrats for the discount’s continued necessity 15 years later. Mangano has said his administration’s actions do not require a tax abatement because he has kept property taxes flat for six years.

“The county executive is supportive of the abatement extension,” Brian Nevin, a Mangano spokesman, said in an email.

Maragos praised the moves by the Legislature and state Senate, but said seniors need more relief from increasing tax burdens driven in part by Nassau’s “broken and unfair assessment system.”

“We are glad that the county and state legislatures took our advice, stopped pointing fingers, and voted to restore retroactively the senior tax abatement,” Maragos said in a statement.

Lavine could not be reached for comment.

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