Elections for 158 of Long Island’s special taxing districts will be held next Tuesday.
Just in time for the vote, a new website is now available to help voters figure out for themselves what districts they’re in and where they should cast their ballots. In the past, sparse turnout has been the rule for these district elections although the outcome has always played out on the bottom line of Long Islander’s property tax bills in which tax increases can quickly add up.
This new online tool was created by the Long Island Index, a project of the nonprofit Rauch Foundation, which has had a long-time focus on civic issues affecting Long Islanders, with technical assistance from the Center for Urban Research at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.
“Public participation in elections is crucial to democracy,” said Nancy Rauch Douzinas, president of the Rauch Foundation and publisher of the Long Island Index. “This new online tool makes it easier for voters to know how to participate.”
These special districts provide basic services such as fire, police, sanitation, water, schools and libraries and they are managed by publicly elected commissioners who oversee the services and determine the taxes to pay for them. And they tend to overlap. According to the Long Island Index, there are 665 of them on the Island.
“Long Island is unique in having so many government entities, and it makes it hard for Long Islanders to know when and where to vote,” said Ann Golob, director of the Long Island Index.
The new tool – available free of charge at mydistricts.longislandindexmaps.org – lets users in Nassau and Suffolk counties to enter their address and learn which special districts serve them, if their elections are on Dec. 10 (not all them will take place then), as well as any information about polling locations and the hours that the polls are open.
“It’s not that people don’t care—it’s that people don’t know,” said Laura Mallay, executive director of Residents for Efficient Special Districts, a citizens’ action group based in South Hempstead. “Special taxing districts have flown below the radar for years. This tool will help to educate residents throughout Long Island.”