by Christopher Boyle
LONG ISLAND, NY – Let’s face it…these days Long Island residents are trying to save a buck wherever and whenever they can; this holds especially true when it comes to their property taxes, which many residents consider the very bane of their existence.
In order to lend a helping hand – and possibly help their constituents take a slightly gentler hit to their wallets come tax season – State Senator Kemp Hannon recently teamed up with Nassau County to offer a Property Tax Exemption Workshop hosted at the Levittown Public Library.
Randolph Yunker, Director of Communication of the Nassau County Department of Assessment, noted that the workshop was a collaborative effort between the Senate and the County.
“Senator Hannon is partnering with the county with this outreach to the community…if it wasn’t for Senator Hannon, we wouldn’t have half of the laws that we currently do regarding tax exemptions for the public,” he said. “Basically, what the County is doing here is bringing their office operations from Mineola to the local communities. Levittown is one of those that we frequent…we get a lot of applicants here, mostly because there are less commercial properties in certain areas, the homeowner portion of the property tax obligation is higher, so they’re looking for ways to reduce it.”
Senator Hannon, who was also at attendance at the workshop, said that bringing the tax exemption workshop to the people in settings such as the Levittown Library was merely a logical – and more convenient – extension of the services available every day that some residents might not be aware of.
“Obviously, we do case work all of the time for people who call up and ask for help with their high taxes and if they’re entitled to anything, and we realized that all too often we have skipped over existing property tax exemptions that can benefit people a great deal,” he said. “So, we thought that we’d have a general workshop, and we have the County Assessor’s Office here with all of their experts, and we’re looking at things such as Senior Citizen tax exemptions, Veteran’s tax exemptions…anything that can help with the most dreaded tax of all, property tax.”
Hannon acknowledged that the number one woe for most Long Island residents is indeed their overbearing property taxes; this holds especially true for members of our most venerable population, he said.
“It’s heartbreaking…as you can see, the average age here is a bit over 70,” he said. “These are people who are on fixed incomes and they don’t realize that they’re entitled to tax breaks, and those extra dollars are essential to keeping their lives going.”
Yunker noted that applications were on-hand in case any attendees were first-timers or pursuing a renewal of an existing exemption; anyone looking to apply for a tax exemption must bring documents declaring proof of income, Nassau County residency, and so on.
“The staff will walk them through the application process, step-by-step,” he said. “We have hand-outs that we give out ahead of time that give people an idea of what documents they should bring, and we urge them to bring extra copies of their documents to speed up the process.”
“These are existing tax breaks…there’s nothing new, and we want to make sure that people are taking advantage of them,” Senator Hannon added. “As people become older and they have a different economic outlook, they may be eligible for something that just a few years before they may not have been. If people need help, we’re there on a daily basis.”
Mary Laub of Seaford, who sadly lost her husband several years ago and, as a result, inherited his job of keeping the family finances in order, attended the tax exemption workshop in order to get a helping hand…and possible save a few dollars in the process.
“I had some trouble filling out the paperwork, and I didn’t know what to bring,” she said. “I got an announcement from Levittown that they were holding the meeting here today, so I figured that I’d come down and check it out. So far, they’ve been very helpful.”
Joe Stanley of Levittown already had all his paperwork filled out, and merely attended the workshop that day to hand them in to the proper parties. However, he was willing to share his strong feelings on what he called the unreasonable issues that he said many Long Island seniors face when it comes to their property taxes.
“I want to make sure that I filled out everything correctly and get the ball rolling on possibly getting an exemption…especially the low-income one,” he said. “Taxes on Long Island are totally unfair…for example, why should seniors pay school tax? School tax should be paid as the child enters school…if you have five kids, you pay five times. And what about people living in apartments? They don’t pay that tax at all.”
Long-time Levittown resident Benrhard Ocasio has an especially large chip on his shoulder when it comes to his taxes, and today he was at the workshop to try and do something about them.
“I’ve been living here since 1974, and all I see are my taxes going up every year,” he said. “They never remain the same, especially the school taxes. I’m 75 years old, and I can’t afford to pay any more than I do now, so I’m hoping that the applications I will be submitting here today will help me finally catch a break for once.”