Mar 30, 2012
By HOWARD KOPEL
Readers of this column are well acquainted with my frequent Jeremiads concerning taxes and spending in Nassau County and beyond, and the conduct of certain elected officials and other public figures in this regard. I think that it’s time for a little good news!
Over the past several years, the Republican majority in the County Legislature, working with the Mangano Administration has been able to manage through huge inherited deficits, while avoiding any tax hikes, and maintaining all of our vital services. Here are some examples:
- The Nassau bus system faced demands for huge new subsidies running from Nassau taxpayers to the MTA. Instead of caving in, we turned operations over to a private operator, with experience running systems all over the world. Results so far are encouraging, to say the least. Despite the dire predictions of chicken-littles, the sky hasn’t fallen. Service continues, buses are cleaner, run more on time than in years, and the County is saving over $32 Million a year.
- The Legislature recently voted to reconfigure police precincts to save up to $20 Million a year. The unions reacted hysterically to this proposal, even though (perhaps because?) it will force some officers off desk duty, and into patrol duties, and will cut unnecessary overtime expenditures. I am confident that the realignment will save money and enhance our safety.
- Tax Assessment reform has started. Repeal of an obscure and illogical rule that, uniquely in this state, forced this County to absorb expenses of other governmental bodies will save the County $80 Million a year, and force additional accounting honesty on all governments.
These are just a few examples of what is being done. But the County must still do much more.
As Chairman of the Government Services Committee and of the Budget Review Committee, I am actively pushing for additional Assessment reforms to not only save much more money but, almost as important, in my mind, to make the system more transparent and understandable to taxpayers. Additional measures that will downsize and rationalize spending are being considered.
All of the votes to accomplish what we have done so far were taken despite the shrill and determined opposition of some interest groups, such as the Police Unions and the Legislative Democrats. The Police unions have gone so far as to publicly demand that taxes be raised to support their bloated contracts. They have spent large sums of money in their campaigns of distortion and intimidation. I am extremely proud that you simply didn’t buy it! The mail and conversations that I have had in this district have been gratifying, and overwhelmingly supportive of what we are trying to do. I thank you.
The Legislative Democrats continually go on TV, issue press releases demanding that cutbacks be rolled back, all the while insisting that they would not increase taxes. This magic trick would be great, if it were only possible. Tell me the idea, explain how it works and show me where to sign! In the words (readily recognized by those of a certain age) of two contemporary philosophers, named Lennon and McCartney, “you say you’ve got a real solution, well, you know, we’d all love to see the plan.” Their problem is not with us, it is with arithmetic!
We have a long way to go, and hard choices remain to be made. Most of your taxes are not levied by the County. The majority are school taxes. And, as I have written, State policies are responsible for huge costs in local governments, especially the schools. So we need your help. Please get involved with local officials, including School Boards, let us have your good ideas, encouragement and complaints too. And, even in “minor” elections, don’t forget to vote.
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