Dumping a special taxing district isn't easy

Photo credit: Kevin P Coughlin | Laura Mallay, the executive director of the organization Residents for Efficient Special Districts, with a petition in front of Hempstead’s Sanitary District No. 2. She and others want to dissolve the district to lower trash collection costs. (Jan. 13, 2011).

Nobody ever said that dissolving one of Long Island’s many special districts would be a snap. A 2009 law made it easier, in theory. But activists pushing for dissolution of Sanitary District No. 2 in Hempstead are not finding it simple.

Why dissolve “Sani2”? Its trash collection costs about twice that of pickup by the Town of Hempstead.

How to dissolve the district? Under the law, activists need signatures of 5,000 people, or 10 percent of the district’s registered voters, whichever is less, before they can put the issue to a vote within the district. So it would help if they knew how many voters live in the district. But Sani2 can’t — or won’t — say.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Law request by the Government Efficiency Project of the Long Island Progessive Coalition, the district did produce budget and other data. But on the number of residents, it said it can’t “respond accurately to this request in the appropriate time period.” But it must know, in order to hold its elections.

The efficiency project and its partner, Residents for Efficient Special Districts, can get some data from the Board of Elections, but it won’t be totally accurate, because election district boundaries don’t coincide with the special district borders.

The district must have this information, and should find a way to produce it. Meanwhile, activists are seeking 5,000 signatures, just in case.

New law or not, consolidation won’t be easy when target districts stall on basic information like this.