Monday, July 31, 2006

Welcome To The City Of Hempstead

Bill To Turn Village Into City Lingers In NY Legislature

The "justifications" for allowing the Incorporated Village of Hempstead -- the most populous village in the State -- to become a "city" (Nassau's third, behind Glen Cove and Long Beach) are set forth in the legislative memorandum prepared by the bill's sponsor, Senator Kemp Hannon:

JUSTIFICATION: A city is, by law, a municipal corporation and a unit of local government. Simply put, a city is what the State Legislature determines it to be. It is governed by many state laws including thegeneral city law, the local finance law and general municipal law.Unlike towns and villages, a city does not have a general State law.

Instead, a city charter, designed specifically for a particular city, performs the function of the village and town law. The city charter is tailored precisely for a particular city, unlike the "blueprint" laws applied to villages and towns.

Hempstead is the largest village in the State, and it is larger than 49 cities. The Village of Hempstead was incorporated 152 years ago in 1853.

The village structure is intended to accommodate smaller populations; since its inception, the village of Hempstead has grown to such an extent that it would be better served by a city structure. There are a number of advantages to becoming a city including: cities traditionally and historically receive greater state aid benefits than do other local governments; cities have the ability to preempt a portion of the county sales tax or enact their own sales tax; taxable real property in a city is taxed only by the city, county and school district, not the town; the local court is a city court which is funded by the state which includes salaries, benefits, etc. of court personnel; a city may create its own civil service commission; a city may create its own Public Employees Relation Board to deal with employee contracts and organization issues; municipal services will be furnished on a city wide basis; and perhaps most significantly, the government is specifically designed for the city and is not governed by a general state law.

The legislation, S4800, has been languishing in Albany since its initial introduction in 2004, last being referred to the Senate's Committee on Cities in January of this year, where it failed to be voted out to the floor for a vote.

Without much apparent interest to move this legislation through the Senate, and there being no companion bill in the Assembly, it seems unlikely, for better or for worse, that we'll see a City of Hempstead anytime soon.

Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing -- for the people of the village and/or those who reside in the encompassing township -- cannot be said with any particular resolution. Surely, that real property in a city is taxed only by the city, the county, and the school district, and NOT by the Town, can't be a good thing for taxpaying residents of the TOWN of Hempstead, who would, in all likelihood, have to dig still deeper into their pockets to make up for millions of dollars in town tax receipts lost from the village.

On the other hand, with a greater influx of State aid to the "City" of Hempstead, perhaps the municipality wouldn't have become indebted to the bond market in order to pay off deficits now totaling $6.5 million dollars.

Whatever and whenever the outcome of this proposed legislation, the debate over the pros and cons of giving Hempstead village "city" status should be debated thoroughly -- a matter of full and public exploration -- and should be placed on the table for discussion and digestion, sooner rather than later.

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