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Only a few residents turned out for a pair of North Tonawanda public hearings Tuesday on expanding senior citizens property tax exemptions.

Mayor Elizabeth C. Hoffman, who conducted the hearings, said afterward that she will approve the two local laws. Previously approved by the Common Council, the laws become effective when filed with the New York secretary of state.

The first law increases the annual income limit for residents 65 years of age and older to qualify for an exemption, from $12,025 to $15,624.

Residents earning $12,025 will continue to qualify for a 50 percent exemption on their property taxes. Those making more, up to the new maximum, would qualify for less, based on a sliding scale with increments of $600. Each increment above $12,025 qualifies for 5 percent less exemption. The smallest exemption, at the maximum $15,624 income, would be 20 percent.

The related local law allows senior citizens to qualify for the exemption earlier. As the existing law works, persons who have not reached age 65 by Jan. 1 are ineligible for benefits until the following Jan. 1, even though they turn 65 during the year. Under the new law, they qualify Jan. 1 of the year they turn 65.

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