Thursday, 04 June 2009 10:41
There are a lot of angry taxpayers in New York these days and I am one of them. In fact, excessive taxes, exorbitant debt and non-transparent budgeting were the issues, which drove me to run for office in Mineola.
The challenge for the residents of our state and of our village and for those whom our residents elect to represent them is to find a way to control taxes and to maintain a responsive, service-oriented government at the same time. We have been working to meet that challenge in Mineola. Through careful budgeting, diligent financial oversight, expansion of our tax base through smart-growth projects, orchestrated debt reduction and a reassessment program geared to producing a fair allocation of our tax burden, we believe that we are on the right path toward generating tax relief for those aspects of life over which we have jurisdiction.
But the Attorney General of the State of New York, Andrew Cuomo, believes that he has a better idea: getting rid of villages.
Mr. Cuomo’s newly proposed “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act” purports to make it easier for citizens to force the consolidation and dissolution of local government entities. These include towns, villages, special districts (water districts, park districts, library districts, sanitation districts, fire districts, and the like, but not school districts). These consolidations, it is claimed will “cut government waste, reduce taxes, and provide vital services in a more efficient manner.”
We agree that in some instances there are special districts, which need reform and overhaul. We’ve all heard stories of fire districts, which were the subject of questionable expenditures. We’ve had our own experience with solid waste management where the Town of North Hempstead Solid Waste Management Authority would have charged us $106 per ton to dispose of our garbage had it not been for the village form of government protecting our citizens and getting that per ton charge down to $61.50. Over the last 10 years alone, protection afforded by the village form of government has saved Mineola taxpayers over $5 million.
We also think it quite strange that school districts are exempt from this consolidation and dissolution proposal. School taxes make up more than 60 percent of all of the taxes we pay. Why in the world wouldn’t Mr. Cuomo include school districts in his proposal?
To lump in villages with special districts for targeted consolidation or elimination is a grave mistake.
In Mineola, we do not have special districts. We have our own water department, fire department, sanitation department, parks department, highway department, auxiliary police department, library and sewer department. We, the very representatives whom you have elected at the local level, oversee these departments and can carefully manage their activities and costs.
Under the Cuomo proposal, if Mineola were to cease to be a village, all Mineola residents would be under the jurisdiction of the Town of North Hempstead. They would be in a special library district, a sanitation district, a fire district, a park district, a water district, a sewer district, and the like. We would pay our taxes to the town and be charged by each district. Would that really make our lives better? Would that really guarantee that our taxes would be reduced? No. It would not.
What it would guarantee is that our village, which celebrated its 100th anniversary just three years ago, would cease to be.
When it comes to government, we believe in the principle of subsidiarity. The principle of subsidiarity stands for the proposition that the best decisions in government are made at the local level, where decision-makers are closest to reality, and not by government officials who are not connected to local issues or to “people on the ground.” Government in New York State is also based upon that principle. The ladder of responsiveness moves from village to town to county to state. The higher you go, the less response you get.
They can’t fix Albany, so they’re trying to break the only form of government that actually works – local village government.
While we believe that the Cuomo proposal is ill-conceived and will result in unresponsive, chaotic governmental services at the local level, and will, in all likelihood actually lead to increased property taxes, we also welcome it. It serves a great purpose. It gives us a wake-up call.
Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have until someone tries to take it away from us. This challenge to the future of our village is our wake-up call. It gives us the opportunity to take stock of what our community is all about, whether there is a great value to its continuation or whether it is something we should discard in favor of “Big Government.”
The Village of Mineola Trustees and I are prepared to weigh-in on this issue. We are totally opposed to the inclusion of villages in the Cuomo proposal. We believe in low taxes. We believe in responsive government. We believe that village government is the best vehicle for promoting, protecting and preserving low taxes and responsive government.
Let me make our position absolutely clear: We are staunchly opposed to the Cuomo proposal.
We would ask you to join us in our opposition.
If you believe that we should do everything we can to protect our village form of government and to avoid being absorbed into the Town of North Hempstead, stand with us. Tell all of our elected State representatives that they should not support the Cuomo proposal. Even more, demand that they tell us immediately that they will vote against it. Let’s not give anyone any “wiggle room” here. Let’s not allow the leadership of the New York State Assembly and of the New York State Senate to twist arms at the last minute. Let’s tell our elected representatives that we will stand strongly with them – but only if they give us their word that they will stand with us in opposition to the Cuomo proposal. If they betray our trust, we will hold them accountable.
If, as we do, you love Mineola, let us mobilize. Let us make our voices heard. Let us tell our representatives that they are either with us or against us. Let us demand accountability.
Please take a few moments to contact our state representatives now either by telephone or e-mail. Tell Senator Craig Johnson, Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, and Assemblyman Tom McKevitt that they must oppose this bill. Our village stands in the balance.
We are against the Cuomo proposal, purely and simply. It is a bad idea whose time has not yet come and hopefully never will.
Mayor Jack M. Martins and the Board of Trustees