The Nassau County Legislature on Monday unanimously approved emergency legislation asking state lawmakers to authorize a popular property tax abatement for seniors that had expired without notice to tens of thousands of recipients.
The home rule message to the State Legislature — along with a local law to restore the abatement that also passed Monday — came after residents complained to county legislators that the annual benefit, established in 2002, had vanished from their newest tax bills.
Members of the Democrat-led State Assembly and Republican-led State Senate have introduced the bills to restore the abatement, which saved seniors about 5.5 percent on their general property tax bills, or an average of $166 annually over the last five years.
The Senate passed its bill unanimously on Monday.
The state and county legislations would retroactively reinstate the abatement and allow refunds to the more than 40,000 impacted seniors, officials said.
“It’s intended to be retroactive and, of course, to make our seniors whole,” said Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow).
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) credited a bipartisan effort that melded the GOP majority’s bill requesting extension of the abatement and a measure proposed by Democrats that specifically called for it to be retroactive.
“The majority and minority were able to come together to benefit the seniors in this county,” Abrahams said.
The original abatement had been set by state and county laws in 2002 after then-County Executive Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat, proposed a 19.3 percent property tax hike during a fiscal crisis. It was set to expire last year, but some seniors were angered that county officials issued no warning.
County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, initially said extending the abatement was unnecessary because he and GOP county legislators had largely frozen taxes since taking control in 2010. Mangano later said he would support extending the abatement.
Also Monday, the legislature approved settlements of three lawsuits against the county with a total payout of $20.8 million:
- $17.9 million to the Town of Hempstead to settle a long-standing utility tax refund dispute. Nassau’s payment comes in exchange for the town dropping its claim for $25.6 million in reimbursement for refunds it had paid Verizon as a result of erroneous county property tax assessments.
- $2 million to Seemona Sumasar and her teenage daughter. Sumasar sued Nassau and a county police detective who arrested Sumasar in 2010 on robbery and kidnapping charges that were later determined to have been concocted by an ex-boyfriend. A Queens judge, in sentencing the ex-boyfriend to prison, said Nassau police were “duped by liars.”
- $850,000 to Alicia Boudouris, a county deputy sheriff who sued the county and some of her colleagues and superiors, alleging they created or tolerated a hostile work environment marked by vulgar language and sex-based taunts.
With Yancey Roy