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August 23, 2010

Comptroller Maragos’ First Online Town Hall Meeting

A Virtual Success

 Maragos thanks everyone who joined him Aug. 23rd, between Noon and 2 pm to discuss Nassau’s Finances and Property Taxes

          Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos hosted his first live “Virtual Town Hall Meeting” on August 23, 2010. Property taxes and County Finances were the main concern of Nassau County residents. The questions were tough and pointed in a lively two hour exchange with the Comptroller. The entire meeting can be reviewed below.

            “The online chat provided residents with a convenient method to voice their opinion and ask questions about their tax dollars including follow-up questions. I thank all the resident who participated,” Comptroller Maragos said. “This afternoon’s virtual chat was a very effective way to show the transparency our taxpayers deserve from their government. It gave our taxpayers the opportunity to get direct answers and to air their views. I look forward to our next Virtual Town Hall meeting and encourage even greater participation from our residents.”

The best part of the online chat was that it did not cost the taxpayers a cent.      

 

Comptroller Maragos' Virtual Town Hall Meeting to discuss the County's finances

 

11:56

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Welcome to the first online live chat. We hope you will take this opportunity to ask questions of concern to you and your Nassau County neighbors. Feel free to offer suggestions on how the County Government can be more effective and ways to weed-out waste. I will try to answer all questions. Any questions of a specific or personal nature should be directed to my office at nccomptroller@nassaucountyny.gov

I hope that you will find this live chat format useful and informative. We welcome all of your questions now.

11:57

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[Comment From Bob]

How can you help lower taxes on Long Island ?

Monday August 23, 2010

11:58

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Good question.

Monday August 23, 2010

11:59

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We need to eliminate the structrual budget deficit. We can do this by increasing non-tax revenues, reforming the tax assessment system, and reduce operating expenses.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:01

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If we can achieve the above items not only will we eliminate the structural budget deficit we will have the ability to lower taxes.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:05

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[Comment From Taxpayer]

How big is the budget deficit going to be in 2011?

Monday August 23, 2010

12:06

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Thank you for that question.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:12

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The projected 2011 structural budget deficit inherited from the previous administration is projected to be at over $280 million due to deferral of labor contract obligations and other budgetary gimmicks. The County Executive will take strong actions to bring the recurring revenues in line with recurring expenses, including working with the labor unions to bring the budget into balance.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:13

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[Comment From Citizen]

I thought the previous administration claimed to have fixed our fiscal problems... what happened?

Monday August 23, 2010

12:13

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Another good question.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:18

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Smoke and mirrors. The previous administration has shown an increasingly large structural deficit from 2005 on. For example in 2009 the structural deficit was $130 million and in 2010 it will be $248 million. For 2011 it is projected to be over $280 million. For further information please review our Six Month Report on our website.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:21

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We have two pending questions from "Sally." ONe deals with health care and the other with "special contracts." I will compose an answer to the first question. In the mean time what do you mean by "special contracts?"

Monday August 23, 2010

12:21

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[Comment From Sally]

How are the new health care laws going to affect Nassau Countys budget?

Monday August 23, 2010

12:28

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We received notice that our health insurance premiums are going to increase anywhere from 13.5% to 22%. The health care reform act should have prevented this from happening but it did not. This percentage increase translates to an increase in costs of between $30 million and $50 million to the County next year. We are committed to working with our federal officials to make certain that Nassau County gets additional social service funding and other economic benefits provided for under the new health care law.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:29

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[Comment From Sally]

what is being done to reduce costs of special contracts?

Monday August 23, 2010

12:34

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We recently issued new contract directives requiring all contracts to be re-bid every 5 years or earlier and tying payment schedules to milestone deliverables. We have also been reviewing and will continue to review ALL contracts for value to the taxpayers.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:37

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[Comment From Sally]

what is your administration doing to reduce the deficit in Nassau County?

Monday August 23, 2010

12:44

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We are working with the County Executive and his administration as cited above. Additionally the Comptroller’s office continues to audit internal departments to weed out waste and improve efficiency. We are also finding ways to increase non-tax revenue, reduce financing costs, and assisting to reduce the expense of the flawed property tax assessment system.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:49

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[Comment From Jim59]

why isn't the county taking a hard line stance agains't special district waste? wholesale reform may not be the answer, but many of the garbage districts, for example, need to go. their budgets are tremendous. why not save millions here?

Monday August 23, 2010

12:50

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Thank you for the question.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:55

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The Comptroller’s office does not have authority to consolidate or dissolve special districts. A number of special districts are operating very efficiently and provide vital services. For those districts that are not, the Government Reorganization and Citizens Empowerment Act simplifies the process for local government consolidation and dissolution.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:55

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[Comment From Sally]

How is the Nassau Rx Card program funded?

Monday August 23, 2010

12:59

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The Nassau Rx card program is costing Nassau taxpayers nothing. The Comptroller's office negotiated a bulk discount plan for all Nassau residents with Caremark. The program has saved users including uninsured residents over $13 million so far.

Monday August 23, 2010

12:59

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[Comment From Sally]

With school taxes on the rise what can your administration do to help lower these costs?

Monday August 23, 2010

12:59

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[Comment From Aquinas]

Does the comptrollers office have a roll in overseeing shool taxes?

Monday August 23, 2010

1:00

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I will answer both of the above questions as one.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:04

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First of all to answer Aquinas: the Comptroller’s office has no authority over school districts and therefore school taxes. The Nassau County Comptroller does not have the authority to audit school districts. That authority lies with the New York State Comptroller.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:13

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With respect to Sally’s question, we encourage the voters of each school district to get out and vote and hold their school districts fiscally responsible. We urge the participation by citizens in the local school district budgetary process as a way of controlling school district expenditures that have resulted in tax increases.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:14

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[Comment From Jim59]

does your office have more information on that act? i'm not familiar with it...even if the comptroller's office doesn't have the authority to consolidate special districts, it would seem appropriate for the office to recommend consolidation of the most wasteful districts. i've live in nassau for years and years. many of us know about the waste and corruption and mismanagement by some of these districts. thank you, comptroller.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:15

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Jim59, please email me at nccomptroller@nassaucountyny.gov and we will send you more information.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:17

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[Comment From Anthony]

With the number of county employees leaving due to the retirement incentive, many departments have lost several individuals. Although cutting spending is a key to fiscal stability, and it would be influenced greatly by Civil Service, what is your stance on filling these positions and the promotion of deserving individuals to the higher positions that may have been vacated.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:18

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Good question.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:22

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The retirement incentive was designed to reduce the county workforce and payroll. As far as filling critical positions, they will be filled with qualifying individuals fully in accordance with Civil Service requirements. Existing County employees who qualify for promotions will be strongly considered.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:23

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[Comment From Marino]

As the owner of a small business, I know that IT expenses can be a challenge to manage. Can the Comptroller's office help assure that the contracts with the county's IT providers do not saddle the county with outdated equipment ? And provide for cost effective updates so that the county can operate as efficiently as possible?

Monday August 23, 2010

1:32

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We are in the process of conducting comprehensive audits of all of IT’s systems. The IT department is one of the weak areas in the County that is being given specific attention in order to modernize the County’s systems effectively and to deliver improvements and cost savings that will be critical to improving productivity in order to balance the budget and reduce expenses while maintaining and improving County services. In my professional career I became fully aware of the difficulty and costs that come from proper management of IT needs. I will stay on top of the IT department to ensure the benefits of technology are fully realized.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:32

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[Comment From Sally]

What can be done to lower property taxes in Nassau County?

Monday August 23, 2010

1:43

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Sally, you have a keen interest in Nassau County finances and taxes. Allow me to reiterate what I said earlier on balancing the budget and school taxes. The County Executive and I do not favor tax increases as a way to balance the budget and are committed not to increase them and have taken planned tax increases off the table. We also encourage taxpayers to participate in annual school district budget votes in order to hold school districts fiscally accountable.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:44

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[Comment From Harold]

How does the county plan on paying the increased costs of its employees pensions?

Monday August 23, 2010

1:49

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The actual amount of the increased cost has not been calculated yet. The increased costs for 2011 are slated to be paid from current operating revenues. In light of the State Comptroller’s offer to finance some of the increases to smooth out the payments, we will be considering that option among others.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:51

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We have 10 minutes left in this Town Hall meeting. If you have any other questions, please submit them now.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:54

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[Comment From Frank]

Currently nassau county employees that are in tier 4 a nd worked at least ten years do not contribute to the pension plan. Can this be changed? If all employees contributed 3% this can help the pension funding alot.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:54

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Please send your email address to nccomptroller@nassaucountyny.gov since your question needs a legal opinion in that I do not believe pension rights can be reduced under State and federal law.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:55

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[Comment From Sally]

Thank you for your time and answers to all of my questions.

Monday August 23, 2010

1:55

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Thank you Sally. We have time for one more question

Monday August 23, 2010

1:55

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[Comment From Roger]

Have you found any opportunties within the Comptroller's Office itself, to reduce expenses?

Monday August 23, 2010

2:00

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Yes, we have not filled all our open position and we are looking to cut some positions next year in order to reduce our budget.

Monday August 23, 2010

2:08

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I want to thank you for your participation in this virtual town hall meeting. I hope you found it informative and look forward to our next Chat.

As always, you can also reach Comptroller George Maragos anytime by e-mail at nccomptroller@nassaucountyny.gov or by calling his office at 516-571-2386.