Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 09 October 2009 00:00
While many municipal governments may be struggling to balance budgets and put forth fiscal plans that are sound, the Village of Mineola is in better shape than ever, says its Mayor, Jack M. Martins.
“The economic downturn that has played havoc with other layers of government — federal, state, county and other towns and villages — has largely left Mineola unscathed. Not through change, but because of basic, sound fiscal management,” Mayor Martins said in his annual state-of-the village address to the Mineola Chamber of Commerce. “At a time when every level of government is addressing looming and ever-increasing deficits due to the basic inability to just stop spending, Mineola has posted six consecutive balanced budgets.”
Mayor Martins also pointed out that the village has paid down its debt from $33 million in 2003, when he took office, to its current level of $21.9 million. He also pointed out that there has been no new long-term borrowing during that time span, as he discussed the village’s financial state.
“At a time when we hear examples on a daily basis of one layer of government running out of money and borrowing to make up the difference, Mineola, through careful budgeting and constant review, continues to pay for things as we go,” the mayor stated. “This approach has resulted in a healthy, unreserved fund balance.”
Mayor Martins echoed the sentiments of many elected officials when he described taxes as the scourge of our times. In response to the ever-increasing burden that is forcing some to consider whether they can continue to live on Long Island, Mayor Martins said the village conducted the first villagewide reassessment in 70 years to institute a more equitable property assessment system for the village portion of residents’ tax bills. The new system, he said, has led to the village having to pay out less tax certioraris. “Last year, village payments on tax certioraris accounted for nearly 10 percent of our tax base or $1 million. This year, the value has been reduced to $750,000 and we expect further reductions in the years ahead,” he said.
Mayor Martins also mentioned the Winston project, a nine-story luxury condominium complex approved for Old Country Road. The project, which is currently before the Nassau County Planning Commission for approval, will bring much-needed tax relief to the village and school district by expanding the tax base, the mayor said. In addition, the village board also approving residential housing in the form of apartments for 250 Old Country Road, the site of the former KeySpan building, will also bring additional tax revenues into the village and school district.
Mayor Martins also addressed the system whereby the village disposes of its garbage. The village, he said, spends over $1.2 million a year or 10 percent of the entire tax base, in “tipping fees,” which are the costs associated with disposing of garbage. The village’s current contract is with the Town of North Hempstead, but it expires next May. “We have been actively negotiating the terms of a new contract, which, if approved, promises hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings going forward, savings that will be passed directly to the Mineola taxpayer,” he said.
The mayor also criticized a government consolidation bill that was proposed by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, passed by the state Assembly and Senate and signed into law by Governor David Paterson. The law enables residents to dissolve a government through a petition and then a referendum. The services the government offers would then have to be absorbed by other governmental agencies. Mayor Martins feels this creates larger, existing governments. “My universal experience with government has shown that the larger the bureaucracy, the more costly and less efficient it is,” he said. “Big government has always been the hallmark of urban living. We must not sacrifice our suburban communities on the alter of inept, big government politicians.”
Mayor Martins stated that the village must be vigilant in protecting its interests when regional plans for Nassau County are considered, whether they be the MTA proposal for a third track, the county’s HUB development or the state DOT’s proposal for an intermodal freight facility. “We will protect the integrity of our own vision for our village’s future without interference from any outside group. Rest assured, the character of our great community will not be sacrificed to what others perceive to be the greater good,” he said.