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NIFA Says Property Tax Increase Likely If Nassau Coliseum Referendum Approved

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The  Nassau Interim Finance Authority said Thursday that if a referendum to $400 million to renovate the Nassau Coliseum passes, it would likely result in a 3.5 to 4 percent average property tax increase.

Nassau residents last year paid an average property tax bill of $11,500, nearly the highest in the country. The county portion of that tab is 16.4 percent. The majority goes to finance local schools, although the county has no say over school district spending.

Meanwhile, District Attorney Kathleen Rice is reviewing allegations that county employees were promoting the passage of an upcoming voter referendum.

That news follows a Newsday report that a large room in a county office building in Mineola appeared to be staffed by people making calls to promote the Aug. 1 referendum.  The newspaper took photos of posters in the room urging passage of the proposal.

The Association for a Better Long Island said it is opposed to the renovation plan and wants an investigation following the Newsday report.

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"They're absolutely out there campaigning for, so this thing has definitely been rigged to be approved," The Association's Mark Hamer told 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera.

State law bars public money from being spent for political ends. But an aide to County Executive Ed Mangano said the county was merely running an informational campaign, not promoting passage.

Desmond Ryan of the Association for a Better Long Island said there were too many unanswered questions to support the renovations.

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"What are the people in Muttontown going to be paying, $2,000, $3,000 more a year in taxes?" asked Ryan.

Mangano wants the new coliseum because he said it will bring in new jobs and union members said it will give them much-needed work.

Ryan said all that can still take place if New York Islanders owner Charles Wang pays for the project, not the taxpayers.

"Why are we being asked to finance the construction of a new coliseum for a billionaire?" asked Ryan. "He is entitled to a new coliseum. If he wants it, he should pay for it."

Wang has said without a new home for his team, he'll take them elsewhere when their lease is up.

Deputy County Executive Rob Walker is pushing for the New York Jets to train at the new complex.

A public vote on the project is set for August, but even after that, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority would still have to approve it.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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