Monday, December 17, 2007

Great Work If You Can Get It!

Water District Meter Reader Rakes In $93,000+

Front page news in Sunday's Newsday. The continuing rape of the taxpayer by the robber barons of the special districts.

Those are our words, not Newsday's, but we all know what they mean -- Jane & John Q. Public are being taken to the proverbial cleaners by the special taxing districts, be they water, sewer, fire, sanitation, lighting, parking, whatever.

The outrageous salaries and benefits are not aberrations, folks, but rather, your so-called "neighbors" -- over whom you are said to exert "local control" -- are ripping the shirts off of your backs.

Oh, if we didn't enjoy paying the price -- the wholesale looting of the public's storehouse -- we would do something about it, like, say, vote.

Truth is, the intelligent, thinking LIer, with the financial wherewithal, is voting, with his or her feet. That leaves the rest of us to deal with the ignorant and the arrogant; the long on promises, short on action wiseguys at Town Hall, the County Seat, and in Albany who profess, "we have no control over the special districts."

What to do with the special districts? Flush them!

Eliminate the water districts, consolidating services under a regional water authority, ala Suffolk County.

Consolidate the remaining special districts -- in particular, sanitation and fire -- providing uniform rates and services, cutting the waste and abuses, and making accountability the mantra of Town, County and State.

We may not see an immediate savings on that bottom line, but at least everyone will bear the burden equally, and someone will be responsible for watching that guy who's watching his VCR in the back of that luxury SUV paid for with tax dollars.

And how many elected officials does it take to finally pull the plug?

As many special districts as there are -- all autonomous fiefdoms serving themselves generous helpings of your tax money -- there are nearly as many folks "studying" the problem.

State Comptroller. County Comptroller. NYS Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness. County Executive. Anyone else care to join in?

There are panels, committees, commissions. Blue Ribbon, black label, red letter. Private conclaves, public hearings, community forums. Its enough to make the Exorcist's head spin.

For goodness sake! It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that in the special taxing districts, there are dead guys on payroll receiving full health benefits and collecting pensions, and the living leaches who run roughshod at water, fire, sanitation, etcetera, are sucking the lifeblood out of every Long Islander.

It simply has to stop, and the time to put an end to the great special district rip-off is now!
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From The New York Times:

Special District Elections Raise Concerns

VOTERS went to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in 154 special taxing districts on Long Island that approve budgets that total hundreds of millions of dollars for services like firefighting, water, sanitation and parks.

But despite a get-out-the-vote effort by Thomas R. Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, turnout for the elections remained relatively low.

The districts run the elections themselves and have 72 hours to report the results to their towns. A spokeswoman for Mr. Suozzi said on Wednesday that a spot check of districts found “a higher turnout in some districts, but others continued to be of concern.”

In the Hicksville Fire District, for instance, fewer voters went to the polls than last year, even though there was a contested race for fire commissioner. Only 1,335 votes were cast, compared with 1,812 votes last year; the district has about 25,000 registered voters.

But in the Plainview Water District, where there was also a contested race, 480 votes were cast compared with fewer than 100 last year. The district has 11,688 registered voters.

In the week before Tuesday’s voting, Mr. Suozzi held a news conference to call attention to the elections and point out that turnout in the past had been as low as 1.8 percent. He said he realized it was difficult to keep up with special district elections because they are held 11 months a year in Nassau.

Nassau has 140 special districts and Suffolk 200, and together they are responsible for half of the $1.3 billion in property tax revenue raised by special districts throughout the state — about one-fourth of all town property tax revenue in 2004, according to Thomas P. DiNapoli, the state comptroller.

He said special district taxes cost each Nassau homeowner an average of $946 — the highest in the state — and Suffolk homeowners an average of $512.

Laura K. Mallay, executive director of Residents for Efficient Special Districts, a nonpartisan group dedicated to the most efficient water, fire and sanitation services, said taxes for the same service vary greatly depending on where one lives. For instance, she said that her sanitation taxes in South Hempstead Sanitation District No. 2 are about double those of her neighbors who live east of the Meadowbrook Parkway in the Town of Hempstead’s own sanitation district.

Howard S. Weitzman, the Nassau comptroller, said a report he plans to issue this week will say that while there are some legitimate reasons for the differences in the cost of services, the “overwhelming conclusion” is that the quality of management is the primary factor. The report will recommend consolidating garbage districts.

“There is no reason for special garbage districts when the town is providing it to some residents at a lower cost,” he said. “We believe it would save $16 million to $20 million for 70,000 homeowners.”

But Mr. Suozzi said “no elected official” knows whether consolidating districts would both save money and be as efficient. He said he had commissioned studies to learn by spring whether consolidation is feasible for school business functions, libraries, parks, road maintenance, sanitation and solid waste disposal, water supply and sewers.

Karl Schweitzer, a commissioner in the Hicksville Water District, said low voter turnout is actually a good sign because if residents “were up in arms, they would come out and exercise their right to vote.”

Mr. Schweitzer said he had heard of a proposal to consolidate all water districts in Nassau and opposed it because response time for service calls would suffer and infrastructure improvements would be delayed.

“Right now the money generated from taxes goes into infrastructure and capital improvements within the town where the money was generated,” he said. “If there is a merger, it all goes into one big bucket.”

Mr. DiNapoli said he and Mr. Suozzi had jointly proposed establishing a uniform budget hearing day in the fall for special districts, as well as posting on town Web sites all financial information for districts.

In addition, Mr. DiNapoli said, special districts should all vote on the same day — perhaps when village elections are held — to give them greater visibility.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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