Top staff for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano were warned last July that a popular property tax abatement that cut an average $166 from senior citizens’ tax bills had expired and would not be applied in 2017, Newsday has learned.
Despite the warning, Mangano did not notify the approximately 44,000 senior citizens who received the abatement that the tax break was ending, catching them by surprise when they received their general tax bills last month.
Nassau lawmakers and the county comptroller also say they were not told the abatement had expired.
Reacting to constituent complaints, county and state lawmakers last month scrambled to introduce legislation to extend the abatement, which was enacted in 2002 to offset a 19.3 percent county property tax increase. Homeowners aged 65 and older who make less than $86,000 a year were eligible for the break, which applied only to county taxes.
According to a copy of an email obtained by Newsday, Mangano’s Chief Deputy County Attorney Lisa LoCurto and Budget Director Roseann D’Alleva were notified on July 21, 2016, that the abatement had expired. The email asked for guidance in preparing the 2017 budget, adding that the original state legislation was attached. Two other county sources confirmed the email and said it came from the assessment department.
Newsday submitted a Freedom of Information request on Jan. 19 asking for all emails from May through July to LoCurto and D’Alleva from assessment concerning the abatement. The Mangano administration did not provide the email but said last week that it would reply in 30 days to Newsday’s request.
A spokesman for Mangano, who is fighting unrelated federal corruption charges, said the abatement’s expiration “was never brought to the attention of the County Executive. Additionally, the email date you reference is after the State Legislature’s session was complete for the year and too late to rectify the situation in 2016. Most importantly for residents, the State is rectifying the situation.”
Laura Curran, a Democratic Nassau legislator who is running for county executive, said Friday, “Taxpayers are tired of a county executive who has proven he can’t run the county. Seniors should have gotten fair notice of this.”
Cristina Brennan, spokeswoman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), said Republican legislators and staff had not received prior notice of the abatement lapse. “Norma is disappointed,” Brennan said.
County Comptroller George Maragos, who also is seeking to run for county executive, said Friday, “It was done secretly without any notice to the seniors and it is disturbing that the county executive was aware of it,” Maragos said.
Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), who also plans a run for Mangano’s job, said, “I don’t know whether sins of omission or commission are worse in this instance. At the very least, if the Mangano administration did not want to continue to give our senior citizens a little extra tax break, they should have made this public so it did not come as a surprise to elderly people who are easy to scare and who often live in economic anxiety.”
Mangano has not said whether he will seek re-election this fall.
Curran had questioned the Mangano administration at the legislature’s last meeting on Jan. 23 when lawmakers voted to ask the state to extend the tax break. But she received no answers.
“Did the administration know about this at any point, that the abatement was going to expire, during the budgeting process?” Curran asked.
Mangano liaison, former Legis. Fran Becker, said the county executive was in favor of extending the abatement “but didn’t send anyone to speak on this.”
“So no one can answer if the administration knew about this during the budgeting process?” Curran said.
“No,” Becker responded.
“Since we’re going to be voting on this, it would be good to have an answer,” Curran said.
“What was the question?” Becker asked.