MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A shock was in the mail for thousands of senior citizens on fixed incomes.

Property tax relief that they’ve counted on for more than a decade expired without notice.

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Complaints have led many to point fingers at who is to blame.

Grandfather Irwin Scharf told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan that he was among the 35,000 Nassau County retirees who got a sneaky surprise in the mail.

“The last item in the old bills was always ‘senior citizen tax abatement’ here and here and here, and then I looked at this year’s bill and saw it was missing,” he said.

It’s known as the ‘enhanced school tax relief exemption’ and is intended to help seniors earning less than $86,000 a year.

The abatement was introduced by the Suozzi administration in 2002. Retirees were never warned that the abatement would lapse unless it was extended.

“Everybody was passing the buck on this thing, and I got really angry about it all,” Scharf said, “My taxes went up by over $500 this year.”

Doris Meadows of Glen Cove saw her tax bill increase by $215.

“It does not bolster your confidence in government that your tax bills are being fairly assessed,” she said.

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Meadows contacted county legislators, state senators, and her assemblyman Charles Lavine.

“The issue has less to do with the overall crisis in Nassau County governance, than it does with the fact that someone in the County Executive’s office dropped the ball,” Lavine (D-Glen Cove) said.

County Executive Ed Mangano (R) disagreed.

“Well I am getting blamed for the Lindbergh kidnapping too, but clearly this is a state issue. We would be happy to support it. The fact of the matter is, this administration did not raise taxes so there is nothing to abate,” he said.

George Maragos (D) is the county comptroller.

“They should not be finger pointing — get together, pass legislation to restore the tax abatement to the seniors and stop arguing,” he said.

Critics said Mr. Mangano was so focused on defending against corruption charges that he unintentionally allowed the tax break to expire. It’s something his administration vehemently denies.

Mangano said tax relief could be restored quickly, and made retroactive to January 1, to help affected senior citizens.


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