The Great Special District Rip-Off Goes On
For anyone -- if there is still anyone -- who still believes that those fiefdoms passed off as "local government" and touted as the last bastions of "local control" aren't robbing taxpayers blind, here's another opportunity to take a good look in your wallets and scrutinize the bottom line of those tax bills.
Read on --
Great Neck North water district boosts son's salary
BY EDEN LAIKIN AND SANDRA PEDDIE
The Water Authority of Great Neck North has voted to give the son of the superintendent a $38,000 raise -- to $140,000 -- without a promotion, records show.
At the same meeting in December, the authority's board voted to raise water usage rates by up to 50 percent. Already the highest of any public water utility on Long Island, the authority's new rate is nearly twice the national average cost of water, according to a recent analysis by the Long Island Water Conference, a professional association.
The board awarded the $38,300-a-year raise to Assistant Superintendent Greg Graziano at its monthly meeting on Dec. 10.
Robert Graziano, his father and the superintendent, made $192,427 last year, more than any other district or authority superintendent on Long Island, according to payroll records.
Greg Graziano did not return several phone calls, and Robert declined to comment. Previously, Robert Graziano said he thought he was underpaid.
"At these rates, they should be delivering the water by hand," said Great Neck civic activist Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar.
But longtime authority attorney Stephen Limmer defended Greg Graziano's 40 percent salary hike, saying he will take on additional duties as provisional superintendent when his father retires later this year.
"Our hope was always to do this; we trained him," Limmer said.
Minutes show that customers of the authority, which comprises 71/2 square miles, will now pay $5.26 per 1,000 gallons, according to the authority. By comparison, the Suffolk County Water Authority, which covers 911 square miles, charges $1.47 per 1,000 gallons, according to records.
In Great Neck, different customers will see different percentage increases -- ranging from roughly 20 percent to more than 50 percent -- because the authority is switching from a staggered rate structure to a flat rate.
"Everybody on the Great Neck peninsula is not rich," said Richard Deem, former mayor of Great Neck and former authority board member. "To do this now when they're paying outrageous heating prices is absolutely insane. It's mind-boggling."
But longtime board member Shirley Siegal defended the rates, noting the increasing costs of electricity and water treatment. "It costs a fortune to produce the best-quality water -- our drinking water, we insist it has to be even stricter than the state Department of Health standards."
Unlike most special water districts that get revenue from customer taxes and usage rates, water authorities raise funds just from usage rates. Records show that 27 percent of the authority's current revenue goes to paying back the $18 million used to create the authority in 1989 and make initial improvements.
Newsday highlighted the salaries of Graziano and his son in mid-December in an investigation of salaries, perks and benefits given to officials of special districts and authorities.
For years, the districts and authorities, most of them in Nassau, have received little scrutiny because they are so small. But their total annual budgets have climbed to nearly $500 million, according to county and district records.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer is expected to be at Hofstra University today, with Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi and Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weiztman, to discuss his proposals for lowering the costs of special districts.
Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.
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And in the interest of fairness, if not equal time to the totally inane, here's the word from a blogger (reporter?) who would have you buy into (literally) the goodness and virtues of the special taxing districts. Believe it or not! www.longislandreporter.com/