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Nassau scrambles to notify veterans, clergy of property tax overcharges

Exemption records are stacked at the Nassau County

Exemption records are stacked at the Nassau County Department of Assessment in Mineola on Oct. 3, 2018. Credit: Barry Sloan

Nassau County officials are scrambling to notify 5,500 veterans and clergy members that they were overtaxed, after a county computer glitch caused $5.6 million in overcharges to property owners.

A team of eight assessment officials has begun reaching out to the homeowners following disclosure of the errors at a hearing in the Nassau County Legislature on Monday, Deputy Assessor Robert Miles said.

The legislature passed resolutions Monday to correct errors in the assessments of 4,700 military veterans and 800 clergy members.

The properties did not receive all or part of the benefits of a "phase-in" exemption, designed to spread out changes in the tax burden brought on by County Executive Laura Curran's countywide property reassessment.

"We’re working aggressively," said Miles. "We sent the corrected bills very quickly."

The county has set up a hotline at 516-571-4811 for taxpayers with questions about their bills.

Curran, a Democrat, also is calling on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to extend the deadline for payment of property taxes without interest or penalty from Feb. 10 to March 12 .

County officials have blamed a faulty computer system for the error affecting veterans and clergy properties.

The Nassau Assessment Department, "plans to examine upgrades to its assessment information management system to safeguard against properties losing exemptions across different taxing jurisdictions," county spokeswoman Justine DiGiglio said.

The corrections came one month after Nassau moved to fix errors with assessments at senior complexes in Seaford and Port Washington, where technological glitches failed to apply or fully apply the phase-in exemption to several hundred residents. That could result in $2.7 million in refunds to taxpayers, according to legislative documents.

Thomas Granoi, 73 of Hicksville, said he already has paid his first-half property tax bill but does not know how much he had overpaid. His total general tax bill for 2021 rose to $4,093, from $2,132 in 2020, online county records show.

"The county executive's saying it happened to the tax office, the tax office is saying it was done by the computer," Granoi, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Army, said Wednesday after appearing at a news conference with Republican county legislators who criticized Curran for the mistake.

"Nobody's saying we’re sorry, we screwed up your taxes," Granoi said.

At the news conference in Mineola, Legis. C. William Gaylor III (R-Lynbrook) called on Curran to work with Nassau's three town tax receivers, "to find out who already paid their taxes and who is due a refund, and issue them an immediate refund."

Gaylor, who was flanked by other members of the majority GOP caucus, said "veterans and our clergy have unfortunately already paid their general taxes and will have to be refunded the money that they overpaid."

At another news conference Wednesday, Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin chided Curran for the overbilling of veterans and clergy, calling it the "Curran tax."

DiGiglio responded in a statement: "While the County Executive is fighting for more life-saving doses of vaccine, the Supervisor continues to play politics with the assessment system."

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