Legislator Schaefer’s Rebuttal to the
County Executive’s State of The County Speech
Good evening. I am Legislator Laura Schaefer and want to thank News 12 for giving me this opportunity to provide a few brief remarks on the State of Nassau County on behalf of the Republican Majority in the Legislature.
To begin, let me say that no political party has a monopoly on good ideas. We will continue to work with the County Executive when we believe she is right BUT there have been and there will be again, times when we just disagree. Most recently, we have seen these circumstances played out with the issue of Assessment.
We certainly agree that the assessment system needs to be reformed so that every taxpayer will pay ONLY their fair share. However, we disagree with a process that is not transparent and fails to have answers ready to the obvious question: Why has my assessment changed? The current reassessment process has been difficult, to say the least, for the taxpayers of Nassau County. They have been forced to deal with a re-evaluation that is fraught with errors, mis-steps and a lack of transparency.
My colleagues in the County Legislature recognized the need to preserve the New York State Law which limited increases of assessed value to 6% per year and no more that 20% over 5 years. However, instead of trying to comply with State Law, the County Executive and County Assessor circumvented this law by manipulating the factor by which the taxable value of homes is arrived at so that, in a MAJORITY of cases, the value of homes were grossly inflated.
The County Executive also proposed that the new assessment values be implemented over 5 years which means that you’ll see an increase in assessed values of 20% per year in each of the five years after the new values are used to calculate your new property taxes. Conversely, those who did see a lower assessed value will be denied the right to their full reduction until the year 2025.
Unfortunately, the County Legislature has a very limited role in this whole process. But there were still some important initiatives we were able to advance recently:
First, we demanded that the Department of Assessment send out tax impact notices on
the new assessments to all of our residents;
Second, we extended the grievance period from March 1 to April 30th; and
Third, we proposed a local law that will remove the authority to set assessments from the CE and create the new elected Office of County Assessor, so that there will be accountability by someone who is elected to that office;
In addition members of the Republican Majority have held numerous community forums and town halls throughout their districts on the assessment process. We’ll also be conducting our second County wide hearing on March 18th at 6:30 PM at the Mineola Middle School.
The Majority is committed to keeping close tabs on the CE and the current Assessor so that all taxpayers are protected and have all the information that they need.
Infrastructure and Economy
Speaking of taxes, our residents, who pay those taxes, have a right to demand that they receive quality services from the county. The recent winter weather has only worsened the problems with our roads from one end of the county to the other.
And let’s be honest about this, part of the reason for these poor conditions is that for a period of about three (3) years some of the legislators in the Democratic Minority refused to provide the votes needed for numerous capital projects for completely partisan reasons. Even though the CE has now proposed a Capital Plan, it has been stalled after she presumably agreed to our changes. So where is the Amended Capital Plan? This is not monopoly money. It was earned by the hard-working, tax-paying resident and is intended for their benefit! Nassau deserves better!
The Republican Majority has been and will continue to be ready to get these projects going including the infrastructure projects that will fix our roads, parks and other facilities. Moving forward on these will also provide jobs which in turn helps boost our economy.
Although Nassau’s economy is doing well, we can ALWAYS do better. In that regard we have been and will continue to support the development of the Nassau HUB….in case you hadn’t heard…. and look forward to it increasing our tax base and providing a needed destination for both residents and visitors to enjoy.
On the topic of working together, WE VALUE BIPARTISANSHIP! Working together in bipartisan cooperation this past year, the Legislature has passed several very important and productive pieces of legislation.
One in particular was geared towards making our parks and preserves more accessible to our residents.
Another one, which is great for the environment, provided additional financing opportunities to our local businesses for the construction of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements.
Overall, maintaining a positive working relationship with the Office of the County Executive has been a priority under the leadership of Presiding Officer Nicolello, and we have worked hard to ensure that the resources requested by the administration are in place for the benefit of our residents.
However, we’re still frustrated to learn that despite our efforts to fund each County department in accordance with the budgetary requests, departments like the Department of Public Works, which fills those pot holes you keep hitting, and the Assessment Department, which is overseeing the assessment process, still remain woefully understaffed.
The County has many other challenges, but one of our most important is maintaining public safety. Since his ascension to the office of the Commissioner of Police, Pat Ryder and the men and women of the Nassau County Police Department have succeeded in lowering crime in our County, which is great news. As reported in Newsday, Police and prosecutors cite the use of new technology, such as surveillance cameras and license- plate readers, crime and opioid-overdose mapping and a concentration on community outreach, as keys to the improvement.
More importantly there was a significant drop in murders in Nassau County committed by street gangs, like MS-13. Other major crimes, including rape, burglary and robbery, also fell approximately 28.6 percent over the past five years. Regardless, we must remain diligent and that includes keeping the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, at the Nassau County jail. NO EXCEPTIONS! The relationship between ICE and law enforcement has existed for 20 + years so it was in effect over the last five years when we saw that drop in gang-related murders. Why would ensuring the protection all of our residents ever come secondary to anything else?? The relationship between ICE and law enforcement in Nassau County needs to stay as it is, where it is, on the County jail property, no exceptions.
In that regard I do support the CE’s reversal of her decision to remove ICE from the grounds of the County jail. In fact, we will go even further by calling upon the CE to keep ICE at the jail for good, in the interest of public safety.
Another good question though is when are we re-opening the 6th and 8th precincts? Promises have been made on this matter so we in the Republican Majority are going to keep the CE’s feet to the fire to make sure she keeps HER commitment to the Legislature AND the taxpayers living in the areas of Manhasset, Levittown and Bethpage, by re-opening BOTH of those precinct houses. I’m pretty comfortable saying that I believe several members of the Minority caucus would join in this demand as well.
Before I conclude I’m going to address the issue of Ethics in Government.
New York State and Nassau County have seen too many elected officials in both major political parties who have been charged and convicted with abusing their offices for personal gain.
To protect our taxpayers, the Legislature has actively and aggressively changed Nassau’s laws and procedures to prevent these types of actions from occurring again. In fact, this past December the Legislature unanimously approved the hiring of Jodi Franzese, who’s a Nassau County resident, as our first Inspector General. Ms. Franzese was hired after a bipartisan panel received expressions of interest from more than 30 applicants as the result of a national search. The new office will review, investigate and research contracts between Nassau County and its vendors to ensure the integrity of the procurement process. Two really important aspects of this position are that the Inspector General is independent of the county executive AND has subpoena power. As Legislators it’s very important that we have our eyes on the contract process at all times because, unfortunately, this has frequently been the subject of official abuse.
There are a lot of other topics that I would like to cover but the constraints of time won’t allow me to, SO, I’d like to close with a quote from President Harry S. Truman: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
We in the Republican Majority will continue to extend the hand of cooperation in working with ALL parties at ALL levels of government, but remember this, we will NEVER abandon our principles in the name of expediency. Nassau deserves better!