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Nassau moves to restore senior tax abatement

Restoration of a popular property tax abatement for Nassau seniors is nearly complete, but it remains unclear how county officials can follow through on plans to reimburse homeowners for tax hikes they experienced this year.

The State Senate on Tuesday passed a bill authorizing return of the abatement that many seniors complained they didn’t know was going away. The Assembly passed the measure last month.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to sign the legislation.

Nassau County legislators have passed the local law necessary to restart the senior tax break, which was approved in 2002 to offset a 19.3 percent property tax hike, and expired as scheduled last year.

But issues remain.

County leaders say they want reinstatement of the program to be retroactive, so about 44,000 senior households that saw their 2017 tax bills increase by an average of $166 get their money back.

But they haven’t determined how the county would pay for refunds, which would cost $7.1 million. Options include giving seniors refund checks this year, or providing a credit on next year’s tax bills.

County Executive Edward Mangano and county legislators initially suggested using reserve funds to pay for refunds. But the county’s financial control board in January rejected that proposal, saying it could worsen a budget deficit it projects at $106 million.

Aides to Mangano, a Republican, did not comment Wednesday on where the money would come from, but suggested the ultimate solution could require new or amended county legislation.

“Once the Governor signs the bill, local legislation will be drafted and filed with the County Legislature so that residents can be made whole,” Mangano said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said the legislature’s GOP majority is prepared to take necessary action to ensure prompt reinstatement of the abatement.

News of the abatement’s expiration in January caught many seniors by surprise, and prompted finger-pointing among state and county officials over who was to blame for not seeking renewal of the program.

County Comptroller George Maragos, a Democrat running for county executive, said Wednesday that he hoped Mangano and legislators would find a solution that allowed seniors to get refund checks this year.

“They need the money,” he said. “And I think everybody should be on board to make this process move as quickly as possible.”

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