Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Take Out The Garbage And The Trash

Talk of the Sanitary Districts, among many other allegedly autonomous "taxing jurisdictions" in the Town and County, has become all the rage - or should we say, outrage.

Recently, Town of Hempstead Councilman Anthony Santino addressed the Baldwin community (Sanitary District 2) at a Town Meeting, and suggested that residents are "willing" to pay more for sanitation services provided by the Special Districts in order to keep "local control." The Councilman also intimated - backed up by a statement from Marty Carroll, Manager of Sanitary District 6 - that folks "enjoy" paying more for services, such as garbage collection, in one form or another, 6 days per week. [See the Baldwin Herald stories, Levinson: Shut Down District 2 and Levinson: Business in the Dumps.]

Sanitary District 2, even at twice the cost paid by those serviced directly by Town Refuse, is still a bargain compared to what residents pay in Sanitary District 6 - $655.68 per year for a home valued at $350,000. We surmise that residents serviced by District 6 reap even more "enjoyment" in doling out the big bucks, their "willingness" to pay trumping the most philanthropic among thosed serviced by Sanitary 2. :-)

Councilman Santino and his colleagues at Town Hall are beyond incredulous when they assert -with impunity - that the "vast majority" of residents are "willing to pay the higher rates;" that we "enjoy having local control over services." Who's "willing?" Given the choice, who would willingly pay more than double for services otherwise offered to residents serviced directly by the Town of Hempstead?

As for local control, who's kidding whom? The Sanitary District elections are a farce. [Most folks don't even know that there are elections, let alone that they take place whenever it is they do take place. Is it in August? December? February 30th? Thanks to the Baldwin Herald, we know that District 2 elections will be held on July 28th.] And look at the Commissioners. Local control? Try control from GOP Headquarters in Westbury.

In Sanitary District 6, there are a paid Manager, 6 paid Commissioners, 17 paid Supervisors and a General Counsel who also happens to serve as Town Attorney. It would be a joke, but we can no longer afford to laugh!

In Sanitary District 2, there is a move afoot - initiated by the South Hempstead Civic Assocdissolve- to "disolve" the District, turning the task of trash collection over to Town Refuse, where the same job could be done by the same people at less than half the cost to taxpayers. [ See http://southhempsteadcivic.org/sanit2.htm.] There is also a very real challenge to the District's monolithic rule, with a local community advocate vying for a Commissioner's seat presently held by one of the party regulars.

Would that the local civic associations in the areas served by Sanitary 6, and other so-called "Special" Sanitary Districts, follow the courageous lead of the South Hempstead Civic Association in Sanitary 2 and begin the process to dissolve these outmoded taxing jurisdictions. Those same hard-working employees who now so ably serve District residents can pick up our trash at less than half the cost under the auspices of the Town of Hempstead. We are certain that residents would be delighted to cede that "local control" and that aforementioned "enjoyment" just to keep more money in their pockets!

Would that more of us open our eyes and read the line-by-line "take" on our Tax Statements, comparing what we pay to what others in nearby communities, within the same township, pay for the same or similar services. And then, would that more of us open our mouths and take a stand against disparate taxation for these very same Town services.

We don't know about you, but we don't "enjoy" paying more and getting less. And we're no longer "willing" to be played for fools - by the Town, by the Sanitary Districts, and by an inequitable system that taxes both credulity and the pocketbook!


  1. In light of the disparity between the various sanitation districts, we really need to take a good, hard look at the underlying problems causing these disparities, and explore ways to fix them. Contrary to what we hear from officials at the Town, all is not well with our sanitation.

    As someone who frequently drives by the parking lot at Sanitation District 6, I notice some of the garbage men already finishing their runs and heading home (or to the golf course) by 10:00am. By 11:00am, it’s fair to say that close to half the cars in their parking lot are already gone. That means that Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer shells out a full day’s salary to sanitation workers for what really amounts to 3-4 hours work.

    The current status quo is not adequate. It’s time to stop treating town services like they’re the holy grail of efficient taxation. We need to start looking at successful models that work in other municipalities. Take Seattle, WA, for example. Its public utilities department charges per month/ per can for garbage. If one produces a little garbage, he would get charged only a little. If he produced a lot, he gets charged accordingly. In other words, one pays for the service that he solicits. There’s no greater local control than saving oneself money by cutting down on the amount of trash he drags to his curb. (Such a system would, incidentally, penalize landlords of illegal apartments by making them pay more for the extra trash produced at his property).

    Contrast that to our districts where, for example, one pays, the "availability" of having weekly pick ups for special items (e.g. mattresses, furniture), a service that I have personally used maybe once or twice this past year. Nevertheless, the trucks for these special pick-ups still run their routes every Wednesday in my district, riding up and down each and every street for the few homes that leave special trash.

    How about yard waste? Does anyone realize that we pay for a weekly yard waste pickup throughout the year? Do we really produce so much yard waste months of January and February to justify a weekly pickup? In Seattle, yard waste is limited to a monthly pickup in the winter months. You don’t have to be a sanitary commish to figure out how to save money here!

    Though I’m very interested in seeing the results from the county audits of our sanitation districts, it wouldn’t be jumping the gun to say that the disparity between the costs of hauling away trash among the various sanitary districts is downright appalling. Councilman Santino’s argument that people want to have local control over services is, shall we say, garbage. What kind of local control are we talking about? What added benefit do I enjoy from having District 6 haul away my trash instead of Districts 1 or 5 or, for that matter, a unified district for the entire town?

    It's patently clear that in the corporate world, when a parent company (in this case the TOH) has a number of subsidiaries (the various sanitation districts) that provide the exact same service, that company would consolidate its subsidiaries into one entity. That way, they eliminate overlap, reduce overhead costs, streamline their operation. Unfortunately, in government, taxpayers are taken for granted, and the disincentive to squander money is just not there.

    Let’s start raising awareness about this. I’m sure that if voters knew that whatever they put in their garbage pails is not the only waste that’s being produce, will undoubtedly be able to make a difference.

  2. It is important to note that not every Sanitation District is getting the same service, despite what Mr. Levinson claims. I am not here to defend the Sanitation Districts. Personally, I find them an affront to good government and all that is wrong with political machines. I want to shed some light on a subject that is in sore need of some facts, rather than hyperbole.

    Let's compare two Sanitation districts. In District 1, they get special pickups everyday of the week and regular trash picked up every other day. Trash is picked up in the back of the house and residents are not required to separate their recyclables from the regular trash. District 1 also has a recycling facility which allows it to avoid charging its residents with a disposal fee.

    In District 6, special pickups are on Wednesdays only and regular trash is picked up on Tues., Thurs., and Sat. Residents are required to bring trash out to the street and separate their recyclables from the regular trash. Residents have to pay a disposal fee for recyclables because there is no recycling facility in District 6.

    The budget for District 1 is about $15 million and the budget for District 6 is about $22 million. The question that logically arises from this is "How is it that District 1 can get more service yet less taxes than District 6?"

    Well, now we have to look at the ratio of commercial and residential properties in each district. The larger the number of commercial properties, the smaller share of taxes residents are required to shoulder. Commerical properties have a higher tax rate and districts with larger numbers of commercial properties can offload much of the tax burden off residents. I can't speak for District 1 but I do know that there are not a lot of commerical properties in District 6. It is primarily a residential area and residents bear most of the tax burden.

    Additonally, you have to look at the number of residents being served by the District. The more residents you have, the more trucks you need, the more gas you have to buy, the more benefits you have to pay your workers, the more in repairs you have to pay to fix more more trucks.... the list goes on and on. The costs to run a Sanitation district will vary depending on the number of residents and businesses you are required to serve. Those costs are invariably passed back to the taxpayer.

    And how well do you think these Districts are operating when it comes to stretching their budget dollars? With little oversight and virtually no public involvement, a betting man would place a healthy wager on the answer being "pretty crappy." Do you think anyone from any Sanitation District has ever said "Let's see if we can cut 10% out of our budget this year through smarter spending and increased efficiencies."?? I highly doubt it.

    The further you dig into this, the more you realize how complex it is. A cynic might suggest this has been done on purpose. Make it so difficult to understand that people will give up trying to fix it. Unfortunately for the Districts, residents are so fed up with high taxes that they are finally beginning to demand answers to questions that have long gone unanswered.

  3. "In District 6, special pickups are on Wednesdays only and regular trash is picked up on Tues., Thurs., and Sat. Residents are required to bring trash out to the street and separate their recyclables from the regular trash. Residents have to pay a disposal fee for recyclables because there is no recycling facility in District 6."

    Just a minor correction: Sanitary District 1 picks up garbage on a rotating schedule: M-W-F one week and then Tu-Th the next week (unless there is a holiday). Sanitary District 1 does not work on weekends (very rare exception: when a fireman died and there was 4000 people fed at the local firehouse). We still pay a town disposal fee (check the tax notice)on top of sanitation district 1 taxes. The cost of recycling is saved with the plant that operates on district property. They also bring in their own private trucks and dump there as well. Imagine that tha Sanitary District Superintendent makes $153K annually when the Supervisor of American's largest township (Murray) makes $110K. And she's a lawyer to boot.

  4. District 6 yard is a total waste of tax payers money , they work 3 hours a day and get payed for 8 hrs a day. there recycling trucks are 3 men which in all the other districts in the town of hempstead the truck are made up of 2 men. i could go on and on and on of the waste that happens at this district 6 yard but im sure the public has a great idea to the waste because it has be going on for years and nobody has ever done anything about it