MEDIA CONTACT: Randolph Yunker (516) 571-5048
July 25, 2007
BOARD OF ASSESSORS CHAIRMAN HARVEY B. LEVINSON’S
OPENING REMARKS SUBMITTED TO THE COMMISSION ON LOCAL
GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY AND COMPETITIVENESS ON JULY 25, 2007
I want to thank the members of the commission for extending an invitation to have me offer some insights on the many special taxing districts that exist in Nassau County. For over 3 ½ years I often felt like the lone voice in the wilderness trying to expose the problems that are now being studied by this committee. I am pleased that my repeated calls for the creation of a statewide committee to study ways to consolidate these districts and to help reduce the overall local property tax burden has finally been realized. I also want to especially thank Governor Spitzer for his leadership on this issue and recognition that our current system is broken and needs to be improved.
While I understand that my time is limited, I will try to be brief and discuss what I feel should be done to change the very fabric of the way that public services have been delivered at the local level and assigned to these “invisible governments.”
When this commission reveals its final recommendations to the public, it is my hope that three things will be accomplished:
- The commission will endorse my plan calling for the dissolution of commissioner-operated and town-operated special districts.
- Support my suggestion that fire districts, while retaining their local identities, would no longer be permitted to operate or be treated as separate taxing jurisdictions and that their budgets be submitted to the towns for review and approval.
- Support the concept of establishing a Nassau County Water Authority, similar to Suffolk County.
One need only to look at the way incorporated villages operate to see that they are a model of efficiency by the way that they deliver public services and the way that the tax burdens for these services are divided. In a village, one tax rate is imposed on all residents for the services that are provided. Under the current multi-layered special taxing district system operating within each town, homeowners on one side of the street may be paying significantly higher tax bills for the same services as their neighbors on the other side of the street. This inequity exists only because of accident of geography.
The advantages of adopting my proposals would be significant.
- Eliminates assessment disparities and widely different tax rates imposed on homeowners throughout the unincorporated areas of the towns.
- Allows the commercial tax base to be shared within each town.
- Reduces the confusing multitude of special district taxing jurisdictions.
- Utilities would not be able to avoid paying their fair share of the cost of services. (The Court of Appeals has ruled that utilities do not have to pay special district payments [ad valorem levies] unless they are directly benefited by the districts.)
The time of the status quo has passed. We have to be visionaries not obstructionists. Every tax savings idea must be on the table with the realization that we must do what is best for the taxpayer.
Levinson reveals property tax disparities within the special districts to commission members.