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Nassau to mail sewer refunds this month

Thousands of residents in five Nassau villages who overpaid their sewer taxes by as much as $600 in February because of a county error should begin to see refunds by the end of the month, a county spokeswoman said.

“We expect to start sending checks out before the end of the month,” spokeswoman Karen Contino said in an email after Newsday inquired about the refunds.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran had said in February she would reimburse a total of $9.3 million to residents of Rockville Centre, Hempstead, Freeport, Garden City and Mineola who were overcharged 75 percent for their sewer disposal taxes.

All county residents were supposed to get a 0.8-percent flat sewer tax increase that would have cost the average homeowner $10 to $15 a year. But an error in the prior administration’s budget office imposed the entire cost of the increase on only residents of the five villages.

Curran officials had said the refunds would be mailed after the Aug. 31 deadline for paying county general taxes when it was clear how much residents had paid for the year and how much they were due in refunds.

Hempstead Tax Receiver Donald Clavin said he delivered to the county in July an electronic list of the payment status of all 32,000 residents in the town that had been overcharged to allow Nassau to quickly calculate the amount of overpayment and issue refunds.

He said the only county official who responded was assessor David Moog, who said refunds were the responsibility of the county treasurer.

“I did this so people could get their money back,” Clavin said. “It’s their money, not the government’s.”

Curran also said in February that she would investigate how the error occurred and would order improvements in the budget system to prevent similar mistakes. She said she would ask County Comptroller Jack Schnirman to review the budget office changes.

Schnirman spokesman Rob Busweiler said in response to Newsday, “That information hasn’t gotten to us yet. We expect it by the end of the budget process, and we will review it.”

At a budget hearing Friday, Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore), whose district includes a portion of Freeport, quizzed Schnirman about the refunds, which had been approved by the legislature in February. “Any indication when those checks will be issued?”

Schnirman said, “We don’t have information on that today.”

Rhoads asked if Schnirman had received any report from the budget office on fixing its systems.

“We have not,” Schnirman responded.

“I’m concerned,” Rhoads said. “Eight months after we were promised some sort of investigation and response, it sounds like there is no communication between the comptroller [and budget office].”

Contino said in an email to Newsday, “When the budget is finalized, all appropriate documentation will be sent for review. As this is still a proposed budget, some changes can be expected.”

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