Keeping Taxes, Fees Down Around Long Island

Long Island

A better way to remove nitrogen in Suffolk?

As county executive, I passed a law that allowed surplus revenues in the Sewer Assessment Stabilization Fund to be used for the upgrades of existing sewer and septic systems. We didn’t mandate septic systems replacement because it could cause severe financial hardship on homeowners.

The Bellone administration put forth a different program, also providing money for these purposes. However, a new Suffolk law will require that the homeowners replace deteriorating cesspools with systems that may cost $17,000 to $25,000. There may be small grants or loans available, but it will still be quite burdensome.

But there may be a better way – through technology that can dramatically reduce nitrogen, while costing only about $1,000 for the equipment and $1,500 for installation. The legislature must analyze this option as a possible way to improve the environment without placing our over-beleaguered residents into financial turmoil.

Don’t handcuff Hempstead Supervisor

Kudos to Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, who is bringing a lawsuit to invalidate the power grab by the outgoing administration that sought to prevent her from implementing any layoffs as she took the reins of power.

This was a disgusting partisan ploy by an outdated political machine. An executive must maintain the power to trim the size of government to keep taxes under control, or even to be able to make the threat to impose layoffs.

Without such leverage, there is zero ability to obtain concessions from the very strong municipal labor unions on Long Island. Let’s hope Gillen wins this suit and that officials from both parties refrain from this type of patronage protection in the future.

Higher LIPA rates?

Clean alternative power sources are the wave of the future, but we have to implement their usage in a sensible way. For instance, we should not be destroying woodlands, as is happening in central Brookhaven, for the purpose of laying down solar panels. (The town is wisely fighting it.) There are thousands of buildings and deteriorated centers that can host solar panels without having to resort to destroying whatever limited foliage still remains in our suburban community.

As for windmills, they might be an additional power source in spots, but we should be honest with the public that energy generated by windmills can cost four to seven times more per kilowatt than standard power plant energy. Beware, because our energy prices are about to go even higher, due to the governor’s pledge to have ratepayers throughout the state bail out failed nuclear power plants upstate. This will cost us $7 billion in our rates. No one bailed out Long Island to cover the cost of Shoreham.

Nassau exec v. unions

Interesting that it is the new Democratic executive who is standing up to the municipal unions in Nassau County. Laura Curran deserves credit for not having caved in her pre-election interviews with the unions by making a crazy promise to raise taxes over imposing layoffs.

It allowed her to maintain her independence and now we are seeing her seeking to invalidate a memorandum of understanding between the last administration and the unions that gave them additional longevity payments. Curran is also wisely embracing the Nassau Interim Finance Authority control board, which under the leadership of Adam Barsky, is finally acting like a true monitor and demanding cuts, instead of practicing the “don’t make waves” posture of the past.

Suffolk, which actually has a deficit larger the Nassau, should be seeking a control board itself to provide the statutory power to change burdensome contracts that are taxpayer killers. Curran and Barsky are showing how cooperation can be a bonus for the taxpayer.

Return school surpluses to taxpayers

Schools on LI continue to deliberately overestimate expenditures and underestimate revenues in order to create artificially high escrows, which illegally exceed the 4 percent limit imposed by the state.

The state comptroller should implement legislation that mirrors how improper escrows are handled with the MTA. The state intercepts sales tax money that would otherwise go to the MTA. State aid that would otherwise go directly to the school should instead be rerouted directly to the taxpayer in an amount equal to that above the 4 percent escrow limit.

Make tax cap permanent

Long Island residents shouldn’t assume that the very successful 2 percent tax cap will be around forever. It was temporary and must be renewed by the state.

It’s scary to know that the power of the Senate may shift from the Republican suburbanites to the New York City Democrats. They would have no desire to keep the cap in place unless they were able to first extract a huge price from Long Island taxpayers. Now is the time for the state to make the cap permanent, while the Republican suburbanites still maintain control of the Senate.

Steve Levy is President of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County Executive, as a NYS Assemblyman, and host of “The Steve Levy Radio Show.”