Thursday, April 02, 2009

Yet Another Call For Special District Reform

And Still No Action From Albany, As Reform Measures Are Removed From Budget Bills

From our good friends at Residents for Efficient Special Districts (yes, we know, we know), via the publications of Anton News:

Special Taxing DistrictsLong Overdue for Reform

During the past three years many ordinary citizens and political leaders have sought to bring attention to the system of special taxing districts in Nassau County. This reform movement has resulted in investigations and audits that have uncovered waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement as well as a lack of accountability and transparency among a number of these taxing entities. These findings have resulted in studies by the Nassau County and NYS comptroller's offices, both of which have determined that by consolidating just the special sanitary districts alone into the three townships within Nassau County, taxpayers would save between $14 and $20 million on an annual recurring basis.

As a board member of RESD (Residents for Efficient Special Districts) I am a civic activist, not a politician seeking elective office. I am also a homeowner who is concerned and frustrated with my continually escalating real estate taxes.

As an active and concerned resident of Nassau County I urge you to support four new pieces of legislation (Bill A156-A) in the proposed NYS budget for 2009. This legislation would serve to lower the delivery costs of public services and bring much needed accountability and transparency to special taxing districts on Long Island. These four proposals are "common sense" pieces of legislation that deserve your support.

The first proposal makes it easier for residents to decide if they want to continue to be served by a particular special taxing district. This would bring about true "local control" and provide people a genuine choice in deciding from whom they wish to receive public services such as sanitation and fire protection.

The second proposal eliminates compensation for special district commissioners. If fire districts and school boards can operate effectively with volunteers who receive neither pay nor benefits, there is no reason to believe that special taxing districts can't either. Sanitation, water and sewer district commissioners should not receive per diems, dental, vision and health plans, a pension and other lavish perks whose costs often exceed those offered in the private sector._

The third proposal makes it easier for special districts to cut down on health care costs by forming cooperative health benefit plans. It simply makes sense to do everything possible to slow increases in health care costs by buying health care in bulk. The special districts can and should cooperate better to relieve Nassau's high tax burden. This proposal would have no effect on how services are delivered, and the resultant savings would go straight into the taxpayer's pocket.

The fourth proposal transfers the management of sanitary districts to town boards. Proper oversight and control of special taxing districts is severely lacking. Budgets and tax levy increases are approved with little scrutiny. As a result, many special taxing districts are rife with patronage, nepotism, wasteful spending and poor accountability. Towns can and should manage all public services provided in their municipality.

Given the dire economic straits we currently face, we must look at every reasonable measure to lower the tax burden on residents.

Special taxing districts have been long overdue for reform. We finally have an opportunity in this challenging economic environment to streamline the multiple and unnecessary layers of government that exist in Nassau County, and give our residents and small businesses the modern, efficient and cost-effective government that they deserve.

Joseph Troiano
Board Member - RESD
Former mayor, Village of Stewart Manor (2001-2007)
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Leaders on both sides of the aisle in the NYS Legislature tell us that reform measures may still come out of committee and up for floor votes, perhaps in June, but don't look for reform, or anything vaguely passing for same, in any legislation tied to the budget.

Concerned citizens are again encouraged to contact their State Senators and Assemblymembers, telling them that the time for Special District reform is NOW!
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More on the Special Taxing Districts, and attempts to reform them, from the Elmont-Franklin Square Herald.

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