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State legislature votes to restore Nassau senior property tax break

ALBANY — The state Senate gave final legislative approval Tuesday to restore a senior citizen property tax break in Nassau County.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Manhasset) passed 62-0. It had passed the Assembly in February and is headed to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for his signature or veto. As a local bill supported by the county’s legislators, including Assembly sponsor Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) and co-sponsor Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), the bill is expected to be signed.

“Seniors on fixed incomes already depend on every dollar to make ends meet and cannot afford to have their taxes go up by hundreds of dollars a year,” Phillips said.

“We have to do everything we can to help those on fixed incomes,” said a co-sponsor, Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). “The fact they have had to wait so long is a shame.”

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.

“Nassau’s senior citizens need the tax relief provided by this county program,” Phillips said. “Enabling Nassau County to bring back this important tax relief program will restore these important savings and help seniors stay in their homes and the communities they helped build.”

Lavine, who is running for Nassau County executive, said a bipartisan effort corrected this “glaring error.”

Newsday reported last month that top staff for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, were warned last July that the tax abatement, which cut an average $166 from senior citizens’ tax bills, had expired and would not be applied in 2017.

Despite the warning, the administration did not notify the approximately 44,000 senior citizens who received the abatement. Nassau lawmakers and the county comptroller also said they were not told the abatement had expired.

A spokesman for Mangano said the abatement’s expiration “was never brought to the attention of the County Executive.”

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