Residents Seek to End Sanitation District

By: Aisha Al-Muslim

Those circulating a petition to dissolve the sanitation district based in Baldwin hope to trim property taxes, but district representatives say the change would cost jobs and save little money.

Spearheading the effort with taxpayers in the district are two grassroots groups: Residents for Efficient Special Districts (RESD), based in Baldwin, and Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC), of Massapequa.

Members hope to collect 5,000 signatures from residents to call for a referendum to do away with the nearly 84-year-old Sanitation District No. 2 that serves Baldwin, Roosevelt, South Hempstead and sections of Freeport, Rockville Centre and Uniondale.

“These districts are not economically sustainable,” said Laura Mallay, RESD’s executive director and a 20-year Baldwin resident who lost a bid for district commissioner in 2005. “Services will go down if we don’t do anything now.”

The New York Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act of 2009 gives residents a mechanism to consolidate and dissolve local governments. If advocates can secure the signatures of 10 percent of registered voters in the district, or 5,000 residents, the issue can go on the ballot.

Advocates wanting to get rid of the sanitation district have collected more than 3,000 signatures since March, Mallay said.

“Many of the residents of the area have been saying taxes are high,” said Serena Liguori, coordinator of LIPC’s Government Efficiency Project. “We certainly want to help support residents and help them save money if they can.”

State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) introduced a bill last January to amend the consolidation law to require a detailed alternate plan when there’s a vote on consolidation. Now, if residents vote to consolidate a local government, it must formulate a plan on how the services will be picked up. “Residents should know how those services are going to be provided and the cost of providing those services after the special district is eliminated,” Martins said.

Residents in the district would pay half of what they pay now if the district is dissolved and the Town of Hempstead picks up the sanitation services, Mallay said. A home assessed at $400,000 serviced by the Town of Hempstead paid $267 in sanitation taxes in 2010, while an identically assessed home in District 2 paid $509, advocates said.

“We feel that in one town there should be one tax rate,” Mallay said.

Hempstead Town spokesman Michael Deery said it’s “premature” for the town to consider taking over the district because no detailed plan has been made.

Former district board secretary Bob Noble, who spoke for the district, said the advocates’ claims are misleading. He said it appeared that their taxes are higher because insurance costs are calculated in the district budget. “Their cost analysis is faulty,” he said. About 70 people could lose their jobs if the district were abolished, he said.

“Is bigger always better?” Noble said. “We are small enough and responsible enough to get to people right away. Most people are not willing to give that up.”

North and Central Merrick Community Association Takes on Tax Discussion

You can consolidate credit cards, student loans or even thoughts and ideas, so why not consolidate special taxing districts?

This is the question many North and Central Merrick residents asked and formed a discussion about it at the North Merrick and Central Community Association meeting at the North Merrick Library on Thursday.

The meeting featured a presentation by RESD (short for Residents for Efficient Special Districts) member Laura Mallay and information from Serena Alfieri, the Long Island Progressive Coalition’s Government Efficiency Project Coordinator.  

A special taxing district is a local unit of government that provides a single service such as sanitation, water provision and fire services, according to the Long Island Progressive Coalition. There are an estimated 300 of such districts in Nassau County.  

“One of the thing Special Taxing Districts will tell you is that they represent local control, but on average 1 to 3 percent of eligible voters in the districts tend to vote,” Mallay said. “There are special taxing district elections every month of the year except for one and really, most residents are unaware of what special taxing districts elections even are.”

There are 213 special taxing districts with the power to raise taxes on Nassau County homeowners with no limits. RESD’s solution to making the districts less corrupt and more efficient are:

  • Consolidate special taxing districts where appropriate
  • Create budget oversight and review guidelines
  • Require public disclosure of budgets
  • Have unified Election Days for special taxing districts
  • Make special taxing district commissioners volunteers

“For the most part, Long Island was farmland more than 100 years ago and as the communities developed, residents needed to provide services so these special districts were formed and they provided what we needed,” Mallay explained. “As we’ve maxed out and there’s no room for growth, there is no additional tax base coming into these special taxing districts and it was really, just, overwhelming.”

Mallay also suggested that residents work together to lower their property taxes by joining RESD, writing the local elected officials, or writing a letter to the editor of the local paper, but most importantly to vote in the Special Taxing District elections.

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“We have four elementary school districts — North Bellmore, Bellmore, North Merrick and Merrick — and all get sent to one central high school district, the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District,” explained Claudia Borecky, president of the North and Central Merrick Community Association.  “People have talked about consolidating to maybe just a Merrick, maybe just a Bellmore.”

Mally said the Merrick school district consolidation issue tends to come up quite a bit at other area meetings she has attended and stressed, “we work with individuals that come to us with issues, we help to educate, we help to notify [the public]. Everybody should be voting, everybody should be participating, it should not be special interest running the show.”