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Workshop Highlights Tax Breaks

Plainview resident Cila Schlanger was eager to attend a two-hour property tax workshop at the Farmingdale Public Library last week — the problem is, so were many other people.

“I was taken aback once I came here because there was such a line,” she said. “I thought it would be a two-hour workshop, but individuals had to wait to be helped on a first come, first serve basis.”

Residents are trying to save a buck whenever and wherever they can, especially when it comes to property taxes. To try and lend a helping hand, elected officials recently hosted a property tax exemption workshop at the library, drawing residents from across Nassau County.

Sen. Kemp Hannon said that bringing the tax exemption workshop to the people in settings such as the Farmingdale Library was merely a logical — and more convenient — extension of the services available every day that some residents might not be aware of.

“We realized that all too often we have skipped over existing property tax exemptions that can benefit people a great deal,” Hannon said. “So, 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 are their overbearing property taxes, which is especially true for members of the island’s most vulnerable 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.”

During the workshop, staff members with the County Assessor’s office were on-hand in case any attendees were first-timers or pursuing a renewal of an existing property tax exemption.

“As people become older and they have a different economic outlook,” Hannon added, “they may be eligible for something that just a few years before they may not have been.”

For Farmingdale resident Paul Vecchio, 68, this was just the case.

“[The workshop] was very helpful,” Vecchio said. “ I learned that I was eligible for benefits that I didn’t even know I qualified for.”

Jeanette Muirhead, 74, of Farmingdale came to take advantage of the senior benefits that she qualified for.

“They helped immensely,” Muirhead said. “They were very kind and walked me through the process step-by-step.”

John Sficos added that he feels property taxes are too high as it is and wanted to see if he was getting the most of his benefits. “I came here to see if I’m getting the primary benefits that I can get,” Sficos said.

Also on hand at the workshop were legislators Michael Venditto and Rose Marie Walker.

“People can come to Mineola, but we really found that we can help our residents within their communities...especially some of the seniors, for whom a trip all the way to Mineola might be a bit much for them,” she said. “But they can come here with their paperwork, sit with someone from the Assessment Office who will go over everything, and get their questions answered. It’s really been very beneficial to our residents.”

Alberto Almonte of Hicksville was recently a victim of a scam involving unscrupulous individuals offering to save him money on his taxes for a fee. Instead, he was taken for a ride to the tune of several hundred dollars with nothing to show for it, he said. His next stop- Farmingdale’s Tax Exemption Workshop, where he was hoping to achieve more legitimate avenues of financial assistance.

“I would like to take advantage of the opportunity that the county is offering to us...I just came from a very bad experience with people who I ended up paying for no reason, and I was taken advantage of. People must be very careful of swindlers like that,” he said. “I’m now in the neighborhood, I’m learning and want to be a part of the community, and I saw the letters from the local politicians about this Workshop. They have helped me a lot today.”

Applications and specific documentation requirements are available on the Department of Assessment website at www.mynassauproperty.com.

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