Nassau waives in-person property tax exemption renewals for COVID-vulnerable populations
Nassau legislators on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure allowing seniors and people with disabilities to continue receiving property tax exemptions through 2021-22 without the in-person renewal requirement.
The emergency vote of the full, 19-member county legislature followed an executive order signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Saturday allowing local governments to waive the renewal requirement to limit the spread of COVID-19. Counties and towns throughout the state needed to pass their own resolutions.
"The legislature immediately acted to pass this initiative to give our seniors the opportunity to automatically apply for these exemptions. We will continue to act swiftly to get our residents as many tax breaks as possible during these difficult times," Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said after the vote.
The move saves the at-risk populations from having to appear in town and county assessors' offices to receive their exemptions as the end-of-year deadline approaches. Unless a homeowner has a substantial change such as transfer of the deed to a new owner or change in primary residence, the county assessor will automatically grant the same exemptions from 2020-21 to the new tax year.
"It really provides a level of comfort for our seniors — many of whom are on fixed incomes — and are our vulnerable population during this difficult time," said Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview).
Drucker said due to the pandemic his office has not held the annual tax exemption workshops and has fielded several calls from constituents be believes should not have to make the "dangerous and unnecessary trip" to renew their exemptions.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she "immediately signed this emergency legislation to ensure those who are most susceptible to the COVID-19 virus can receive critical tax relief without risking public health."
Also on Wednesday, legislators approved 17-2 the administration's request to transfer $19 million in federal pandemic funding into personnel costs. The funding, from the federal CARES Act, was initially appropriated for equipment. County officials said a new $10 million in FEMA reimbursement would cover those equipment costs.
Nassau received $103 million in CARES Act money, which needs to be spent before Dec. 31.
Legis. Vincent Muscarella (R-West Hempstead) questioned whether the administration was "using accounting tricks" to reallocate the CARES funding.
He said the county executive's office was asking the county legislature to approve the transfer after criticizing the Town of Hempstead's approval of $70.1 million in payroll resolutions using CARES funding, including $43 million for the town’s sanitation department and $17.3 million for other departments, such as for bay constables, as well as $8.3 million for the water department.
Curran, a Democrat, joined U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Democratic state senators in seeking a probe into the Town of Hempstead's use of those federal funds.
"It just seems to me that it is hypocritical," Muscarella said.
Curran spokesman Mike Fricchione said Republican legislators "should be ashamed" for making the comparison.
"Comparing CARES funding for front line first responders with the Town of Hempstead’s misguided decision to use federal money for new toilets and their sanitation department is a sad and desperate ploy that taxpayers won’t buy," Fricchione said.