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Nassau lawmakers restore tax breaks for Cold War veterans

Nassau owes about $176,000 in tax exemptions on 762 parcels owned by eligible veterans. The exemptions were eliminated mistakenly from general tax rolls.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran outside the Theodore

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran outside the Theodore Roosevelt County Executive Building in Mineola on Nov. 8, 2017. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Legislature voted unanimously to approve a request by County Executive Laura Curran to restore property tax exemptions for Cold War veterans that were eliminated mistakenly from general tax rolls last month.

Also Monday, a bill to criminalize the use of revenge porn passed two legislative committees. Revenge porn is the practice of posting intimate sexual images of a former partner without their consent.

Nassau owes about $176,000 in tax exemptions on 762 parcels owned by eligible veterans. Curran officials faced heated questioning from legislators frustrated by the error and the administration’s response to correct it.

Curran, a Democrat, blamed the mistake on former Republican County Executive Edward Mangano's outdated county computer system. Administration officials confirmed to legislators Monday that a computer code had caused the problem, despite protections to prevent tax bill mistakes.

County Treasurer Beaumont Jefferson, in response to a question by Legis. John Ferretti, Jr. (R-Levittown), said refund checks to those veterans who have overpaid will be issued by March or April at the latest.

“We don’t want veterans to be out of this money for any length of time,” Jefferson said.

The Cold War veterans property tax exemption, which eliminates as much as 15 percent of assessed value, was reauthorized and increased by the county legislature in March and signed into law by Curran April 2.

The exemption is available to those who served in the U.S. military from Sept. 2, 1945, through Dec. 26, 1991. It does not apply to school taxes — only to levies on the general tax bill, which include county and town taxes.

Legis. William Gaylor III (R-Lynbrook), a U.S. Army veteran, criticized the administration’s response, particularly because the county assessment department had not yet sent letters to veterans alerting them to the error.

“This administration seems to me to be screwing it up,” said Gaylor. “Time after time our veterans, seniors and disabled are taking it in the shorts.”

But Curran said in a statement, “after 8 years of a frozen [tax] roll, 8 years of an unqualified assessor, 8 years of doing nothing — the Department of Assessment is on the long road to restaffing, improving information technology and restoring fairness and accuracy to the assessment roll. We will expedite the refund process for all our Cold War Veterans and appreciate the prompt and bipartisan support of the Nassau County Legislature.”

The revenge porn bill, filed last month by Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) and Legis. Debra Mulé (D-Freeport), would make it a misdemeanor to share sexually explicit photos or videos without the person's consent.

The measure, which closely resembles legislation that passed last year in Suffolk County and in New York City in 2017, calls for jail time of up to one year and a $1,000 fine for those convicted of an offense.

Drucker said the legislation would close a loophole in the county harassment law and allow for victims to sue for civil penalties.

“This is a law that is so topical now and so necessary,” Drucker said. “The humiliation and damage and harm caused by the dissemination can wreak havoc on someone’s life.”

Forty states and the District of Columbia have revenge porn laws on the books, Drucker said.

District Attorney Madeline Singas submitted a letter to the legislature supporting the bill.

State lawmakers are expected to take up similar legislation, but Drucker said, “We’re not waiting for the state. We are going to have our own law here. Even if they do pass it in the state, it goes into effect 60 days after the governor signs it. Ours would take effect immediately.”

The Nassau bill requires approval by the full county legislature.

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