Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere. . .

. . .And Lots Of Taxpayer Dollars, Too!

Seems that those local water districts (aren't they special?) are up to their old tricks again. This time, they're squirreling away tax money above and way beyond what is customarily considered necessary. In some cases, they have enough money on hand to run all district operations for years.

A rainy-day fund, perhaps? Well, when it rains it pours -- tax dollars, that is. Money out of YOUR pocket, right into the coffers of Long Island water districts.

According to a study conducted by the office of Nassau County Comptroller, Howard Weitzman, 19 commissioner-run water districts in Nassau County had more than $59.9 million in the bank.

If you reside in the Garden City Park Water District, there's enough taxpayer money in the district's bank account to cover 2 years of service. In the Cathedral Gardens (West Hempstead) Water District, there's enough money in the till to operate for 7 1/2 years, without taking another penny from taxpayers (but, of course, they will).

So, with all this money on hand, what are the "locally elected" water commissioners going to do?

Disney World? A new gas-guzzling SUV? Wide-screen HDTVs for every employee?

One thing is certain. The Water Districts are not likely to be refunding any part of this surplus to homeowners or businesses. Nor is a tax cut in special district taxes in the offing.

Folks, it looks like, while you weren't watching the pot, it boiled over!
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Want more information about the special taxing districts on Long Island? Click HERE to check out Residents for Efficient Special Districts (RESD).
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From the Nassau County Comptroller:

Weitzman finds many water districts squirrel away so much money they could operate for years without new revenue

Comptroller calls for money to be returned to property taxpayers and water users

A report released today by Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman on the 19 commissioner-run water districts in Nassau revealed that jointly, the districts had an extra $59.9 million in the bank. The report looked at the December 31, 2007 balances.

According to the report, the Cathedral Gardens Water District in West Hempstead has accumulated enough excess funds to operate for seven and half years without collecting any more money from residents and the Garden City Park Water District could operate for two years using its $7.2 million bank account. These districts could stop charging their customers for years and still be able to deliver water to the taps of homeowners.

"In this time of extreme fiscal pressure on our local tax payers, it is more important than ever that governments limit taxes and charges to those that are absolutely necessary,” Weitzman said “Taxpayers are better stewards of their money than government. They should not be asked to prepay several years’ worth of taxes for possible future use. Instead, these districts should be offering taxpayers a substantial reduction in water charges.”

Most governments keep a small amount of excess funds from their operating budget as fund balance. For example, Nassau County aims to keep about 4-5% of its prior year budget as fund balance and school districts are authorized by the State to keep 4% of the current year’s budget as fund balance. The Government Financial Officer’s Association (GFOA) recommends a fund balance of between 5-15%. Weitzman’s report states that every one of the 19 water districts have accumulated more fund balance than the state law permits for schools, or the 5-15% standard set by the GFOA. Cathedral Gardens has 763% of its operating budget in fund balance; Garden City Park, 198% and Franklin Square, 124%.

Recently, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has been critical of several school districts on Long island that carry a high fund balance.

"Collectively, these commissioner-run water districts should be holding no more than $3.9 million in fund balance and returning the excess $56 million to their hard-pressed tax payers,” Weitzman said. “Taxpayers could have used this money for their own benefit instead of padding the districts’ bank accounts.”

Water districts collect user charges and property taxes. At 2007 operating costs, Manhasset-Lakeville has 3 years and 4 months worth of property taxes in the bank, Garden City Park has 3 years and 3 months of property taxes in the bank and Franklin Square has 3 years and 1 month of property taxes in the bank. Bethpage, Oyster Bay, South Farmingdale and Albertson all have over two years’ worth of property tax collections in the bank. Eight districts had accumulated between one and two years’ worth of property taxes.

"Commissioner-run districts have argued that they are saving money by accumulating large fund balances to pay for future major repairs or capital projects,” Weitzman said. “In effect, they are taking money from current residents to finance future benefits instead of using long-term borrowing to spread the cost over future years. Not only is this unfair, but it can also avoid Town oversight over district borrowing."

"Vastly over collecting from tax payers is unnecessary and not in their best interest,” Weitzman added. “Tax payers have better use of their money then to send it to sit in district bank accounts.”

Click HERE for Commissioner Run Water Disticts Fund Balances

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Illegal Accessory Apartments Hurt Tenants, Too

Unscrupulous Landlords Prey Upon Those With Limited Resources And No Rights


I live in Dobbs Ferry in an illegal apartment. Beacause of my lack of rights as a tenant renting in an illegal apartment, I am forced to move. I live in the basement with extremely loud and inconsiderate people upstairs. For the first two years I tried to make it work, pretending I was really living at home and those were my brothers making all the noise upstairs. Right!! We were raised properly and had manners. I tried talking to them , writing notes and banging on the ceiling.

Well, the truth of it is the couple upstairs are 60+ Italian immigrants whose brother in-law owns the house but does not live here. In the beginning I was told I could use the garage for storage. That changed when he decided to use his garage to store his mason materials and diesel truck. He then cut down the tree in the back yard, and turned it into a parking lot for his hispanic assistant masons and their vehicles to park!!! So now I get to hear a diesal truck, electric garage door opening and two cars ten feet from my head start every morning at 7 AM seven days a week. The lazy fat man upstairs decided he was too above parking on the street and began parking on the grass like trailer park trash. I complained to the landlord. He replanted seed and put up a temporary fence which they had to nerve to take down!!

Now there is the issue of the fat retired wife lacking any hobbies whatsoever except to hang her wet dripping laundry over my entrance door every day over 40 degrees. She also takes in laundry. Why should I have to look at other peoples' underwear and girdles?? Disgusting. If this were in an apartment building, this would never be allowed. I complained to the town of Dobbs Ferry about violating the law of parking too close to a building and to my entrance door. Nothing was done.

Next there is the issue of no carpeting except the ones I gave them. What about the law in NY demanding 80% of your floors to be covered? Not in this case. Besides them walking like elephants every morning at 5 AM, I have to listen to the grandchildren running back and forth non stop for up to six hours several times a week. Of course, they have to leave on their shoes. When they are alsleep or gone, then I have to listen to the loud tv from 8 PM til after 10 over my bedroom. Did I mention he wears a hearing aid- but obviously not always!! All I ask is that I have one room in my apartment where they are quiet above my head.

I cannot enforce any of my rights as a tenant since this is an illegal apartment. This jerk upstairs even threatned to harm me twice if I were to complain again about their noise. I made two police reports. Better yet, I went on the Mike and Juliet Morning Show on a segmant called "Nasty Neighbors."

Of all the people responding to their post about who had nasty neighbors in the tri state area, I was chosen to have the worst. I have a recording of him threatening to punch me in the face. Apparently, the garbage men did not stand up the cans after emptying them like they do twice a week all over the United States. He decided it was my fault for some psychotic reason.

I complained recently to my landlord about them being loud before 9 AM only over my bedroom, again, which was always my main request. He came over and yelled at me for calling his house to complain. He then told me I have to leave the hallway light off unless I am in it. Another violation?? During the same visit, he also yelled at me for having my lights on in my apartment when I am home!! Definitely inbreds!!

So, am I for or against illegal apartments?? Guess!! As tenants, we have no rights whatsoever. I was never informed this apartment was not legal.

I am now moving to a legal apartment building where I do have rights. I would love to report the landlord so no one ever has to go through this. Moving is a costly expense. Feel free to post this wherever you like.

Name Withheld Upon Request
Dobbs Ferry, New York
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What is the impact of illegal accessory apartments where you live? Do your neighbors -- or you -- have tenants living in your basement? Are you a tenant in an illegal apartment, at the mercy of a landlord who just doesn't care about anything other than that rent check? What, if anything, is your town or village doing to curb or eradicate illegal rental apartments in single-family homes?

The Community Alliance would like to hear from you. E-mail us at thecommunityalliance@yahoo.com.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Kick Me Kate!

Murray Proposes 6.6% Tax Hike For Hempstead Town

It wasn’t all that long ago that Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray, was issuing press releases and generating Murraygrams (at taxpayer expense) to announce that she was “holding the line” on property taxes, or, as if leaving homeowners out in the cold was something to be proud of, “freezing” town taxes.

Well, no press release or Murraygram to accompany the proposed Town of Hempstead budget for 2009, where homeowners in the unincorporated areas of the township will, if Kate Murray has her way, “enjoy” a 6.6% increase in town-imposed property taxes – not including any hike in special district taxes, the control over which the town summarily disavows.

Harkin back to the days of former Supervisor Rich Guardino, who was plucked from elected office as Town Supervisor for a presumably more colloquial life in academia. Rich left the town in relatively good stead, financially, with an “official” surplus of some $50 million dollars. [We say “officially,” as those in the know in Hempstead Town at the time put that surplus closer to $100 million.]

Enter Kate Murray and, lo and behold, that surplus mysteriously evaporates into thin air.

Where did all that money go? To fix town roads? Hardly. To make local government more efficient? Don’t make us laugh. Back to the taxpayers? Now, you’re pushing it.

Turning surpluses into deficits, and growing government, rather than shrinking it, is not only the stuff that Washington, D.C. is made of, or so it would appear as the “respected on Wall Street” crowd at Hempstead Town Hall learns, at the expense of homeowners, that “borrow and spend,” like the historical downturns in the market, eventually catches up with you.

With falling revenues and an unprecedented financial gloom hanging over Long Island, an increase in property taxes was, more or less, inevitable. Credit is tight. State aid to localities is harder to come by. Costs are, as Kate Murray aptly puts it in her budget statement, “skyrocketing.”

Still, a 6.6% increase in the already onerous tax burden is a bit much to be shouldered by Town of Hempstead homeowners, already straining to keep afloat in a sea of rising school and county taxes, and home values that, in some neighborhoods, have declined as much as 20% over the past year. This is especially so when, year after year, the Supervisor has boasted as to the town’s fiscal prowess and financial muscle.

And why is it that the poor souls without benefit of village life – the abandoned and neglected of unincorporated hovels like Elmont, Baldwin, Uniondale, and West Hempstead, to name but a few – are called upon to bear the cost of the town’s tax hike, while the incorporated get a free ride under the Supervisor’s proposal?

Then again, why ask? It would seem that the unincorporated hitherlands, with little say, and even less in the way of actual representation, are the favorite dumping grounds for the Town of Hempstead’s refuse, both literally and figuratively.

Kate Murray, having gratuitously turned America’s largest town into America’s most blighted township, now looks to add a new mark upon the cross us townies must bear: The Town of Hempstead – America’s most taxed township.

Yes, if you want the services – such as those provided by lighting districts, parking districts, refuse disposal districts, and the like (sorry folks, but sanitary districts and water districts will cost you extra, as they’re not included in the town tab), you have to pay the price.

And for the 6.6% extra you’ll cough up toward Kate’s kitty in 2009, the town will throw in an Urban Renewal Plan here, and a Condemnation Proceeding there. [If you dig deep enough into your pocket, you may even get a Victorian-style lamp post, or two.]

Kate Murray. Trusted on Main Street no more!
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From The Three Village Times


Wrong Time to Raise Taxes?
Not for Town of Hempstead

During the Presidential campaign, Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, has said that now is the wrong time to raise taxes. Senator McCain believes with a struggling economy, additional taxes would put another hardship on taxpayers. But don't tell that to the Town of Hempstead. With families hurting with possible escalating oil prices for the winter and a troubled market, Republican Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray plans on increasing taxes for residents of the unincorporated areas of the town such as West Hempstead, Franklin Square and Elmont by 6.6 percent or $45.90 over the 2008 budget, according to Murray's 2009 budget message.

Supervisor Murray cites plummeting mortgage revenues as well as softening sales tax receipts as pressures that come with the 2009 budget. However, the 2009 budget proposal calls for a $4.9 million spending increase over the 2008 budget.

With families hurting financially, residents need their government officials to keep spending in check. However, it seems that the easier solution is to go to the taxpayers for more money in order to feed the machine of government.

The town should at least take a longer look at its budget before having to ask the taxpayers to pay even more money. If you live in Elmont, West Hempstead and Franklin Square, the unincorporated areas, you will find yourself paying more money and what have you gotten in return?

In West Hempstead, many residents simply want the Courtesy Hotel to close. Nothing has happened yet. In Elmont, people want a redevelopment of areas that are underdeveloped. Nothing has happened yet.

Perhaps if the town were to act on some of the projects that never seem to get done, then more revenue will be brought in and there will be no need to ask homeowners to pay more than they are already paying. It's time for the town to do more for these residents than just tax them.

- Joe Rizza

The writer is the editor of the Three Village Times.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Change Has Come To America

And To The New York State Senate

We are witness to history, both across this great land and here on Long Island.

A new direction for America, and the end of the Grand Old Party's forty-year reign in the State Senate.

In the depths of America's Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President of the United States, and Americans, forlorn, tired, fearful, and hopeless, could be heard singing the refrains of Happy Days Are Here Again.

For these United States and, perhaps, the world, a new day dawns. A new day where hope triumphs over fear, confidence supplants uncertainty, divisiveness succumbs to civility, and that which tears nations and people apart gives way to a new wave of cooperation that brings everyone together for the common good of all mankind.

A New New Deal for America; an opportunity to live out the dream of Camelot as the world watches this nation lead again.

As Sarah heads back to Wasilla, and Joe-the-Plumber looks for work at Hempstead Town Hall (where plumbers really do make $100,000 a year), we look toward Albany, where, by a narrow two-seat majority, power (if not authority) shifts in the State Senate from red to blue.

Time to put partisan bickering behind us, to cross the aisle, to work together for the benefit of all New Yorkers, cutting property taxes, bringing parity and common sense to the State aid formulae so that none of our children are left behind, funding the unfunded mandates, and, yes, at long last, passing that bigger, better bottle bill.

"Yes We Can" has been the mantra of the Obama campaign, and must be the modus operandi of every elected representative from the State Capitol to Town Hall.

Then, and only then, can we end the stalemate that stymies progress and holds every one of us prisoner to yesterday's fears and failures.

Change has come to America. Let us make this our defining moment.

Cue the balloons.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Your Vote. Your Voice!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Polls Open In New York 6 A.M. to 9 P.M.