Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Chris Fidis For Governor?

Cue The Balloons ~ And Hold On To Your Wallets

West Hempstead Resident Chris Fidis may not get on the ballot, but his ideas should at least get the ears of the candidates for New York's Governor, as they get a public airing here on The Community Alliance blog.

My name is Chris Fidis and I have been a resident of West Hempstead since 1988.

In 1992 I served on the West Hempstead schools citizen budget advisory committee. The committee's charge was to find ways to reduce the school budget.

We were told by then superintendent of schools Harold Silvers that if we can find something to cut our report should reflect those cuts as recommendations.

Well, our committee back then in 1992 found $450,000.00 to cut. We didn't have to cut any programs to achieve this kind of savings.

We were told by the school board at the time that we overstepped our charge. The truth is we were not supposed to find this money back then.

The West Hempstead school district is now, thanks to the current board and administration under Superintendent Carol Eisenberg, the most effective and cost conscious in the county.

The mentality that public school education is a free education is a really bad misconception. Someone is paying and footing the bill. At what cost do we tolerate this taxing of only property owners before we no longer have anyone who can afford to live in Nassau county?

Everyone must pay!

As school property taxes began to climb I contacted Senator Kemp Hannon's office after speaking with one of his staff in Garden City at the train station during his re-election campaign.

His staff member told me I had great ideas about reducing the school property taxes.

Senator Kemp Hannon proposed a change in the taxes I began to speak about back then.

I saw that my research was paying off.

On July 11th of 1999 I spent an hour in conversation with Michael Fabiano, the Budget Director for then County Executive Tom Gullotta. I informed him of a solution to the 50 million dollar deficit facing Nassau County back then.

The revenue collected from this new approach would have generated monies to close the gap without any new taxes imposed. But the county could not enact these changes because of what it would require to be put in place.

I worked on Mr. Suozzi's campaign and acquired over 7000 Greek American votes for this man.

Well today I am writing because I want to get my platform out in public view.

I visited the Board of Elections today and asked, how do I run for Governor and get on the ballot? I was told that I would need to collect 15,000 signatures across 15 voting districts state wide.

Well I know that would be impossible so I decided to contact The Community Alliance.

According to County Executives Mr. Levy and Mr. Suozzi, there is nothing that they can do about school property taxes.

I have personally spoken to Mr. Suozzi twice.

The first time was during a West Hempstead town meeting on the new vision for Nassau county.

I addressed the meeting and asked Mr. Suozzi back then "who is paying to live in Nassau County." He didn't know how to answer that question and asked me to contact his office.

The second time was during his walk along Nassau Boulevard while running for re-election.

I aksed the same question "who is paying to live in Nassau County?" And he still didn't get it.

The County Executive has done more harm than good for Nassau county.

The County Executive still doesn't get it today that there is a solution to the school property tax right here in our own back yard.

Nassau County is responsible for the proliferation of illegal apartments and allowing enforcement to go under funded. Yet Mr. Suozzi can give raises to staff and ignore what's important to his constituents. His answer is to go to Albany.

This is not the answer.

Albany should not be the scapegoat for not cleaning house here in Nassau County first.

Our elected officials either can't do anything or have a vested interest in leaving it as is status quo.

I have the plan that would do the following;

* Reduce the school property taxes by changing the current tax law which is broken.

* Place better controls on guardianship abuse in our districts buy using our districts free of charge.

* Change the current STAR funding formula and turn it into an educational grant for renter / non-property ownership.

* Give seniors the better benefit by eliminating STAR and only charging for a minor school tax for building maintenance ($250 - $500 a year ).

* Change the funding formula to allow the monies to follow the child regardless of school attended. Note - private schools, catholic schools are funded through school property taxes for books and transportation only. The remaining dollars should go to the teachers' salaries and not by default go to the district teachers salaries.

* I would require that district funding require not only proof of residence but proof of deed ownership. If the student is not from the homeowners family they should pay a non owner fee / or state sponsored educational grant i.e., former STAR program.

The basis of property taxes is ownership. If you own real estate you get taxed. If you don't own, "YOU DON'T PAY ANY TAXES"!

Mr. Suozzi's position is and has always been that homeowner pays the taxes, not the illegal renter. He is right in saying that. But, the homeowner subsidizes everyone who is not paying his/her fare share.

I want this inequity exposed and put on the table for the public forum. This can no longer be ignored.

I may not get elected Governor but I can make a good hard effort to get the issues on the table and give Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Suozzi a run for their money.
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Anyone out there up to carrying Petitions to get Mr. Fidis on the ballot?

Let us try to sort this out, if we can.

First, whatever fault may lie with the County and it's administration, they are not "responsible for the proliferation of illegal apartments and allowing enforcement to go under funded." The scourge of illegal rental apartments, as it has been called, arises from a whole chain of economic events, aided and abetted not by the County's purported shortcomings, but rather, the failure of the townships to enforce their own Building Codes.

Case in point, the Town of Hempstead -- where illegal rental apartments in single family homes have been a growing Cancer for more than a generation -- had, until recently, only six (6) Building Inspectors to cover the entirety of America's largest township. This notwithstanding, some years back during the first term of the Suozzi administration, the Town of Hempstead literally turned away hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for increased code enforcement.

It is the Town, not the County, that has primary jurisdiction over matters of zoning, building codes, and enforcement, and the Town that, on this score at least, must be held accountable.

Next, on the matter of home ownership as a basis for educating our children. New York State Education law requires school districts to provide an education to EVERY student residing within the district, whether his/her family owns, rents, or just stepped off the boat from Kuala Lampur without documentation and lives in a cardboard box on Hempstead Turnpike. That's Albany, NOT the County.

With respect to property taxes, we agree with Mr. Fidis when he says, "The basis of property taxes is ownership. If you own real estate you get taxed. If you don't own, 'YOU DON'T PAY ANY TAXES'!"

Yes, PROPERTY taxes are based on the ownership of PROPERTY! If you want to capture the renter -- illegal and otherwise -- and those who consume without recourse, you have to levy a tax on something other than property. Try INCOME! [As our State Legislators collectively cringe...]

We also agree, wholeheartedly, with phase one of the Fidis Plan -- "Reduce the school property taxes by changing the current tax law which is broken."

That means, fundamentally, changing the manner in which we fund our schools, establish and apply the State Aid formula, and distribute "wealth" among the State's school districts. In essence, that means we have to FIX ALBANY, because the State Legislature and the State Legislature alone is empowered to change the laws that, in effect, burden every Long Islander with an oppressive and regressive property tax!

The problem, Chris, is not Tom Suozzi's ambition (we could use more men and women of similar "ambition" in government), nor that the County Executive is running for the State's highest office in Albany. If Tom Suozzi as Governor could do for the property tax fiasco what he has done for Nassau County's finances as County Executive, we'd be in great shape. The problem is, simply put, there is no one running Albany.

We've long ago given up our State government to three men with personal agendas in what used to be a smoke-filled room (now there's just alot of hot air circulating within a vacuum), and have come to expect (we no longer demand) little progress on any front from either Governor or Legislature. That's the real shame.

Whether the ideas expressed here by Chris Fidis -- or any one of them -- will fly remains to be seen. Whether he will get many votes for Governor as a write-in candidate, his tax reform platform notwithstanding, is also uncertain. What is clear in all of this muddled repartee is that Mr. Fidis has taken the first -- and perhaps the biggest -- step toward cleaning up the property tax mess. Standing up. Speaking out. Making a case, for whatever it may be worth, for change.

What's your opinion, and what steps are you willing to take to change the way we fund public education? The Community Alliance, the candidates for Governor, and your State Legislators, would like to know!

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