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State bills would extend tax abatement for Nassau seniors

State senators and Assembly members from Nassau County have introduced legislation to extend a senior property tax abatement that expired at the end of 2016 without notice to tens of thousands of recipients.

In the Senate, sponsors Elaine Phillips (R-Manhasset), Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and John Brooks (D-Seaford) said the measure would retroactively restore and continue the county program. Identical legislation was introduced in the Assembly by Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) and Assembs. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont), Anthony D’Urso (D-Great Neck) and Missy Miller (R-Long Beach).

The tax abatement was set by state and county laws in 2002 after then-County Executive Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat, approved a 19.3 percent property tax increase. The program expired as scheduled at the end of 2016. But county officials provided no advance notice to seniors, leaving many upset after seeing their tax bills increase by roughly $200.

Aides to County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, said initially that a series of property tax freezes since he took office in 2010 made the extension unnecessary. But a spokesman said Mangano now supports the extension.

County officials estimate the abatement saved eligible seniors (those older than 65 and earning less than $86,000 annually) 5.5 percent on their annual general property tax bill. A Newsday review shows 43,861 properties had the abatement in 2015-16, and that the average abatement was $166 over the last five tax years, removing between $6.8 million and $7.7 million annually from the tax rolls.

Phillips said many county seniors “are living on fixed incomes and already struggling to cope with the costs of taxes, health care, utilities and other necessary expenses. They cannot afford to have their taxes go up by hundreds of dollars.”

Lavine, who is running for county executive this year, credited “a bipartisan effort to correct this glaring error.”

Majority Republicans in the county legislature are expected to introduce an emergency resolution Monday, known as a home rule message, formally requesting the State Legislature extend the benefit. Minority Democrats said they support that.

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