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.
“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.”