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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Abrahams explains STAR exemption on house he no longer lives in

An exterior view of 195 Perry St. in

An exterior view of 195 Perry St. in Hempstead on Thursday, May 29, 2014, a rental property owned by Nassau County Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Nassau County Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams continued to get tax breaks on a home he hasn’t occupied in nearly three years, but also has yet to receive the benefit on his current residence.

Exemptions under the state’s School Tax Relief Program, known as STAR, are reserved for owner-occupied properties, and homeowners must request cancellation of the benefit within 60 days of moving.

Abrahams, a Democrat who is running for Congress in the 4th Congressional District, moved out of his house in Hempstead in August 2011, and later began renting it out.

In an interview this week, he said he believed he was properly requesting that the Hempstead exemption stop when he applied to get a new STAR approval at the Freeport home where he now lives.

But Abrahams didn’t submit that application until Jan. 3, 2013, county records show. He disclosed that he was already getting the benefit in Hempstead, but didn’t submit the letter required by the county assessor’s office to terminate it.
County officials denied the Freeport application for “insufficient information” soon afterward.

In the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school tax years, Abrahams received a total exemption of $1,822 on the Hempstead property, records show. Last November, Abrahams reapplied for the exemption in Freeport, and this time, submitted the required letter. The county assessor approved the request in January, and it will take effect for the 2014-15 school tax year.

“This is not a case of double-dipping,” Abrahams said, emphasizing that he never sought two exemptions at once.

He said he believed he had properly requested that the STAR exemption be ended on the Hempstead site when he first applied in Freeport in early 2013. Although county officials said his application lacked information, Abrahams pointed out that he disclosed the existing exemption upfront.

Because school taxes on Abrahams’ Freeport home are about three times higher than on his Hempstead property, Abrahams said he has lost money by not being able to transfer the exemption sooner.

“None of this was benefiting me at all,” Abrahams said.

Abrahams will face Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice in the June 24 Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola). Rice’s campaign declined to comment on the issue.

Errors in the granting of STAR exemptions are common, according to a 2013 audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The audit found that nearly 20 percent of about 6,500 STAR exemptions that were reviewed should not have been granted because they were “duplicate or improper.”

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