Harvey The Reassessor
Funny, but to hear Peter Schmitt - the Nassau County Legislature’s Minority Leader – tell it, Harvey Levinson – the Chair of the Nassau County Board of Assessors – “helped create” the reassessment that so troubles Nassau County taxpayers.
Forget Charlie O’Shea. Forget the old Nassau County Board of Supervisors. Forget years – no, decades – of Republican hegemony that perpetuated an egregious tax system. Forget the machine-driven contentment to not only condone a broken and burdensome system, but to embellish it through a multitude of autonomous taxing jurisdictions. Forget all logic and reason. Harvey Levinson is responsible for the reassessment. Not only that, ladies and gentlemen, Harvey Levinson is also responsible for the sinking of the Titanic, the Great Depression and the Black Plague! You read it here first.
Yes folks, while Harvey Levinson was serving the good people of this County – 25 years in the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, the last of those as the right hand man to Denis Dillon – he was plotting to create the reassessment and to tax homeowners above and beyond even their wildest nightmares. The one public official who – against popular notion and self-preservation – isn’t afraid to suggest that at least a portion of the property tax be replaced by a nominal income tax. Oh no. He’s the cause of all our woes. How utterly absurd.
What galls us is not so much the laughingly inane sound bytes that flow from the gunked up guts of the GOP machine, but that there are folks out there who actually buy into it! And few among us – not even the press – call them on it.
Greg Peterson, the born-again former Town of Hempstead Supervisor who, with a flash that puts Tom Gulotta to shame, resurrected as the golden boy who would be County Exec, chides Tom Souzzi for raising County taxes 19% - this after the County had been thrown into a financial hole by a generation of mismanagement and incompetence under the rule of, guess who? Yup. The GOP. Who is he kidding? That’s like blaming a surgeon who saved his patient’s life by removing a lung, this after his predecessor and his predecessor’s team failed to diagnose and treat the Cancer in the first place. [And we won't mention the now familiar Peterson ploy that Suozzi plans to run for Governor in 2006. Oops. We just mentioned it. Remind us again who it was that resigned the position of Town of Hempstead Supervisor, shortly after his re-election, to take the job as chief of Nassau OTB, permitting Gentleman Joe Mondello to appoint Rich Guardino in his stead? Hmm. That would be Greg Peterson. Forget we ever mentioned it!]
All the talk of Bond ratings by the Town of Hempstead elite. Oh yeah. The Bond ratings are up there, all right. And you know what that means – more borrowing, and more taxes to pay back that which has been borrowed.
For those with rather short memories, let us take you back to the Gulotta years. The days of smoke and mirrors galore. We were told, in no uncertain terms and with the same constant dribble as now drones down to us, that the County’s finances were in fantastic shape. That our Bond rating was top notch. That there was no need to raise taxes or cut programs. That everything in America’s premier County was a picture perfect photo opportunity. And we bought into it, lock, stock and barrel of sitting ducks.
And so, the County borrowed, borrowed and borrowed some more, until the bottom fell out. Who was left to pick up the pieces and pay the piper? That would be us, the taxpayers. Hey, don’t blame the Republican machine. Its Tom Suozzi’s fault.
Today, that same scenario – one that should frighten us all – is being played out on the stage of the last bastion of GOP domination – the scene of the greatest puppet show on Earth, awaiting the final curtain - Hempstead Town Hall. The Bond rating is second to none. The Town’s finances have never been stronger. We’re freezing all Town taxes under our control. And we buy into every bit of it, don’t we?
What they don’t tell you – and dare not tell you – is that the Town is headed down that same road the County took – with us as paying passengers. They somehow forget to remind us that, for 2005, the Town increased taxes by 12.8%. [Since when does a municipality with a professed surplus RAISE taxes?] They conveniently forget to tell us that, thanks to that wonderful Bond rating, the Town of Hempstead is $56 million dollars in debt, and plans to borrow even more - $33 million to $35 million per year from 2006-2009. And they’re not going to tell us that the Town of Hempstead’s largest revenue fund (Sanitary – surprise, surprise) is running at a deficit. [This all according to Fitch Ratings, the folks who rate the Bonds.]
We sometimes ask ourselves, “With all the money the Town is borrowing, with all this debt being loaded on the backs of the taxpayer, why is Kate Murray always smiling?” Then again, until the very end, Tom Gulotta was smiling, too!
Heaven help you, Harvey, when you do take office as Town of Hempstead Supervisor, and all of the borrowing, bellowing and pork-barreling finally breaks the bank. Its all going to be your fault.
Sure, its all about taxes, stupid. Whether we cap the property tax increase or not isn’t the issue, and the finger-pointing mentality that is the hobgoblin of little minds is not the solution. Without a cap on tax rates – by school districts, sanitary districts and the plethora of other special districts that pick our pockets clean – you could, theoretically, lower the assessment, and our taxes will still go up.
The property tax is among the top quality of life issues confronting Nassau County residents. It festers, it spirals out of control, and it contributes to other evils, such as illegal accessory apartments, which in turn burden schools and essential services. There appears no end to the vicious cycle.
We can accept that the property tax system, which is oppressive and beyond the means of the ordinary wage-earner, cannot be fixed. That this is a system that needs to be replaced by a fair and equitable tax, based on one’s ability to pay, not on the artificial value of one’s house.
Or, we can continue to buy the broom they’ve inconspicuously placed at the checkout counter – a broom we’re going to pay for again and again – and then, we can blame it all on Harvey!