NCVOA February 2015 NEWSLETTER
Published by the Nassau County Village Officials Association
Post Office Box 484, New Hyde Park, NY 1104
NCVOA February 2015
GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING
Tuesday, February 10, 2014-7:00PM
Williston Park, NY
| TOWN SUPERVISORS NIGHT
Hon. Kate Murray
Town of Hempstead
Hon. Judy Bosworth
Town of North Hempstead
Hon. John Venditto
Town of Oyster Bay
Regional Planners Address Long Island’s Future
The January 2015 General Membership Meeting featured a presentation by Regional Plan Association‘s Christopher Jones, Vice President for Research and David Sabatino, Associate Planner for Long Island.
Regional Plan Association (RPA) is America’s oldest independent urban research and advocacy organization. For 90 years, RPA has been a resource of ideas and plans for policy makers and opinion shapers across the tri-state region. RPA’s focus has been on work improving the infrastructure, sustainability and quality of life of the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region.
A cornerstone of the company’s work is the developing long-range plans and policies to guide the region’s growth. Since the 1920s, RPA has produced three landmark plans for the region and has begun work on a fourth plan that will address the challenges facing the Long island region, including climate change, fiscal uncertainty and declining economic opportunity. RPA has worked on a variety of projects across Long Island – from downtown revitalization projects, to a plan for the Nassau Hub. Currently, the company is engaged in a Suffolk County study looking at leveraging proximity to transit for economic development in downtowns.
“Our work towards the 4th regional plan builds upon substantial efforts and extensive work done by several organizations, including the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, Long Island Regional Planning Council, Long Island Community Foundation’s task force on fair and affordable housing, and the LI Index, all of which consider a wide range of issues for Long Island, “ said Chris Jones. “Part of our task is to insure that all of our efforts are mutually reinforcing.”
According to Jones, RPA has spent time listening to the region through surveys and focus groups. “It was not surprising to find out that 84% of surveyed Long Islanders cited property taxes as a serious problem in their community, but it was very interesting to note that 24% of those surveyed said they would move to an urban area, compared to 6% who said the same thing in 1995,” Jones explained. “Topics that rose during our Long Island focus group were housing cost burden, traffic and the rising costs for mass transportation.
“Despite the challenges, Long Islanders love where they live. They love the convenience of being close to what they need or want, they love the close knit communities and many of them want to find a way to stay.”
“In order to chart a course for the region's future, it is vital that we have a deep understanding of where we stand today, “ stated David Sabatino. “We thank NCVOA for giving us the opportunity to present Fragile Success, our report on our region’s current situation, and to open a dialogue with the NCVOA on major issues affecting their communities. Fragile Success is available for review on RPA’s website www.rpa.org.
FROM THE PRESIDENTS DESK:
Dear Mayors, Trustees and Friends:
I want to thank the representatives from Regional Plan Association (David Sabatino and Chris Jones), who explained to us last month the status of their current regional plan project for Long Island. Their presentation highlighted some of the changes that have occurred on Long Island since the last regional plan was adopted, and pointed out some of the village initiatives to implement transit oriented development and introduce similar improvements. They also spoke of some of the challenges facing local communities and the region as a whole in maintaining Long Island’s sustainability in years to come.
Next month (February 10), our February General Membership meeting will have added significance as we will be welcoming all three(3) Nassau County Town Supervisors as our guest speakers. Kate Murray, Judi Bosworth and John Venditto have confirmed their attendance. We hope to hear what is going on in their respective towns, as well as discuss with them how villages and the towns can collaborate to provide more efficient services to our residents.
I am very excited about the prospects of having the town supervisors in the room together, and I hope for a very interesting and spirited discussion about how we can work collaboratively. Please plan to join us on February 10 at La Marmite Restaurant in Williston Park. We would like at least one representative from every village in attendance, so please make every effort to come.
In the past month, there have been a few developments of note I would like to bring to your attention:
- On January 13th, the Executive Board sent a letter to Nassau OTB regarding the proposed casino at the old Fortunoff store in Westbury. The position of the board, on behalf of the Association, is that local government officials, including mayors of the affected communities, need to be included in the site selection process and the needs of the affected communities must be addressed prior to finalization of any proposed site.
I would like tp personally thank the NCVOA Executive Committee and all the individual mayors and trustees who supported the Village of Westbury's position. As elected officials, it is our fiduciary duty to listen to our residents and make decisions in their best interests. In this particular instance, I was pleased and proud to see local governments unite to protect the quality of life for all local residents. After all, that is the very essence of good government.
- As of this writing, we continue to await the report of the State Board of Elections regarding its suggested approach to addressing the issue of the unavailability of electronic voting machines for local and village elections. Per state law, the Board was to have reported to the State Legislature and Governor as to what can and should be done to address the concerns of local officials, including Nassau’s villages, school districts and other special districts. The Nassau Board of Elections has advised that, as of now, it would be incapable of providing electronic voting machines for our elections. This leaves villages in the very tenuous position of having to fend for themselves and make their own (very costly) arrangements, or resort to paper ballot elections.
NCVOA continues to monitor these and other topical issues. We are continuing discussions with Nassau County regarding the development of a service sharing arrangement or other mechanism to allow all villages to coordinate with the county to provide certain services in a more cost-effective manner. We will update you on the progress next month.
Peter I. Cavallaro
Phony Answers on Property Taxes:
By Steve Levy, former Suffolk County Executive.
As printed in the NY Post January 07, 2015 edition.
A number of our members had read the following article and recommended that we, with Mr. Levy’s permission, re-print the article in its entity. We think that Mr. Levy is right on in his views and we invite you to read on.
As executive director of the not-for-profit Center for Cost Effective Government, I was at first excited to hear that an outfit called EffectiveNY will host a Jan. 20 forum in New York City about the exorbitant property-tax levels in New York state.
I was quickly disappointed, however, to discover that the organization promoting this forum is actually an umbrella group for some of the biggest spending interest groups in the state.
Their solutions to our high property taxes are twofold: 1) raise income taxes; 2) have state government pick up the full share of Medicaid costs.
While these issues can become part of an overall debate, they can’t be highlighted to the exclusion of the true roots of what is pushing costs so high: state unfunded mandates foisted upon localities.
We don’t oppose having the state pick up the full share of Medicaid costs; however, all that does is shift costs from one taxing entity to another.
It does nothing to control the forces behind driving costs up in the first place. New York pays more for Medicaid than Florida and Texas combined.
This is an illusory saving that these groups are clearly proposing so they can stop dead in its tracks any effort by reformers that would impact the unions and other big-spending interests.
EffectiveNY makes no mention of the need to reform the unsustainable pension system, let alone provisions like mandatory arbitration and the Triborough Amendment, which both strengthen public-sector unions in contract negotiations.
All across the nation, overgenerous pension awards made years ago are now coming home to roost; they’re one prime culprit in bringing many localities to the brink of bankruptcy.
While New York has made window-dressing attempts at pension reform, such as the new Tier 6 (which simply pushes out a retirement date from 62 to 63 years of age for new employees), state leaders made no effort to, for example, stop allowing overtime for current employees to be incorporated into a final pension benchmark.
This practice has left some Long Island law-enforcement employees retiring with pensions of up to $184,000 a year.
Meanwhile, the defined-benefit public pensions typical in New York provide for a taxpayer-guaranteed 7.5 percent return on the pension system.
This means, for example, that if the market is only going up by 2 percent a year, taxpayers make up the other 5.5 percent.
Long-term sustainability will only be ensured when, at least for new employees, we transform to a defined-contribution system, similar to the 401(k) programs now dominant in the private sector.
Mandatory arbitration has led to an escalation of salaries in public-sector law enforcement that will soon give some Suffolk County detectives an annual salary of $227,000.
Under this process, which came into effect through the Taylor Law in the 1960s, union leaders have very little incentive to negotiate anything but large salary and benefit increases — since they know they’re likely to get sizable awards from the arbitrator anyway.
In 2010, New Jersey placed a 2 percent cap on awards. It’s time for New York to follow suit.
Other municipal unions also lack incentive to negotiate due to Triborough, a doctrine unique to New York.
This rule dictates that, even after a contract has expired, employees still get salary hikes in the form of steps, 2 percent to 4 percent increases for simply living another year. The step is above and beyond the negotiated salary increase in the contract.
Triborough lets the union wait it out until management caves. Ask any school superintendent, ending Triborough would relieve tremendous pressure on property taxes.
All three mandates — pensions, arbitration and Triborough — can be cured with the passage of bill No. A8603, now before our state legislators.
So let’s be thankful for this forum to discuss property taxes in New York, but let’s be clear: We already know what’s pushing up already-high property taxes, and also know what the solutions are. What’s been missing is the will to implement them.
Hopefully, the interest groups behind this forum won’t impede our efforts to make these reforms a reality.
Steve Levy served as Suffolk County executive 2004-2011.
January 2015 Meeting Attendees