Friday, September 21, 2007

Which Part Of "Volunteer" Don't They Understand?

No Pay For Special District Commissioners? Well Duh!

Okay. So we've been saying this for years.

If you want to volunteer -- as in "there's no greater service to the community than public service" -- then do so for reasons other than getting paid for "no show" meetings, junkets to Vegas or the Bahamas, or lifetime health benefits for you, yours, and the patronage cronie next door.

Maybe now that Newsday is editorializing to that effect (and you know the members of the NYS Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness are not only thinking about this, but talking out loud as well), taxpayers, too, will sign on.

School Boards work without pay or comps, as does the aforementioned Commission, come to think of it.

Lop off the heads of these special district beasts -- some of which have multiple (as in five or more) commissioners -- and watch how quickly these self-serving, tax dollar eating fiefdoms disappear off the face of the earth!
- - -
Cut off the commissioners
Special districts are costing taxpayers

State law prohibits school board members and fire district commissioners from getting paid.

These volunteers don't get medical, dental or vision coverage, either. Why then should the elected commissioners of water, sanitary and sewer special districts be entitled to those generous benefits, sucked directly from the pockets of taxpayers?

Recent audits by Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman make a strong case for the State Legislature to end these practices. The latest study found that the three Hicksville Water District commissioners filed for 689 per diem payments at $80 each. That's a total payout over two years of $55,120, plus the cost of their medical plans. Some waive the insurance coverage (for which there is a cash rebate) because they were covered by another plan, but that raises another question. How can someone work another full-time job and in the same year, still find 114 days to punch the clock as a commissioner? That's a deal that makes the $19,000 the Hicksville commissioners spent to attend conventions (Orlando in 2004 and San Francisco in 2005) seem like a small perk in comparison.

The Franklin Square Water District wasn't any better. Three commissioners there put in 955 days, over two years, for a payday of $76,400. But don't think you can feed at this trough. It's usually a family affair, with 7 of the 15 on the payroll all related. No surprise then that a recent poll by the Long Island Index found very strong support for consolidation of non-emergency special districts into centralized entities. Gov. Eliot Spitzer appointed a commission on local government and efficiency, and it will make recommendations for reform at year's end. Eliminating compensation for special district commissioners would be a good place to start.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

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