This blog that has had three previous entries has been a blog in support of Governor Cuomo’s call for a two percent tax freeze on local budgets including Patchogue Village. Yesterday Newsday is now reporting that the Governor spoke at a citizen meeting lobbying for public support for his plan. Here are some quotes from that news article along with some of my views about how they relate to Patchogue Village.
“In the first year of Cuomo's plan, first announced in December, homeowners living in municipalities that adopt local budgets that stay within the tax cap would receive a state income tax credit equal to the growth in their property taxes.”
Step one: Patchogue Village would have to adopt a budget that stayed within the cap.
“The freeze would continue for a second year if governments stayed within the tax cap and developed three-year plans to consolidate or share services”
Step two: staying with the tax cap for a second year and the development of a three year plan to consolidate or share services for example garbage pickup might be such a plan. Or instead of paying for legal services a la carte: a village attorney, a village prosecutor, other village attorneys assigned to planning board and zoning boards and other services such as defending the village against outside legal actions all these separate legal services might be combined into one legal arm a true village legal service where attorneys are paid at a rate lower than the 200 dollars an hour some of the above attorneys are now charging the village for their services.
“Governments would have to reduce their annual tax levy by 1 percent a year over the period”.
Step 3: continued downward pressure on controlling costs to get to the amount of a one percent reduction. Common sense reductions one would think could be found to reach that goal. For example no more building putting greens that serve a few at a cost of twenty five thousand dollars when we can spend less for something else that would serve many. In other words: get priorities in order and cut costs.
“Pitching a key element in his 2014-2015 budget proposal, Cuomo told a crowd of about 300 at Nassau Community College that local governments have duplicative services, inefficiencies and patronage that cost taxpayers millions of dollars per year and drive families and businesses out of the state.”
Step 4: recommitting the village government to all those goals as a top priority. For example on the horizon is the appointment of an assistant code enforcement supervisor for 46, 000 dollars PART TIME. Can't we find another less costly way to address whatever staffing need that position is intended to resolve? My answer…where there is a will there can be a way.
“Cuomo said nearly 700,000 Long Island homeowners would save an average of $565 during the two year freeze.”
So on top of reduced taxes a direct rebate to every taxpayer. That sounds good to me.
“He said the plan, which the State Legislature must approve, could face resistance from local governments that have a patronage system”.
Of course such a plan will do so. In fact our own Mayor is presently one of if not the leading voice in opposition to this plan. Ten years of tax and fee increases has been the hallmark of the Mayor’s administration. Taxes have only slowed due to the already existing tax cap and for no other reason I believe. The Governor’s plan requires hard choices that I think the Pontieri administration has been reluctant to make. But that is exactly what we need. We need a Mayor committed to wringing concessions from private businesses instead of handing out concessions like he was Santa Claus. Some examples:
1. Ten thousand dollars for a three year lease to Lombardi’s on the Bay for the use of what was previously a village parking lot or in other words ten dollars a day. Sell one drink at the bar and the business has made its daily quota towards paying off that lease agreement.
2. An easement to the Harbor Crab: twenty five dollars. Maybe the taxpayers should have given them that for free. Oh but wait that is exactly what the Mayor first proposed only to be rebuked by a “revolt” led by village attorney Egan leading to that twenty five dollar give away. Two drinks at the bar paid for that.
3. Commercial noise license fees that for million dollar clubs in most cases come out to a couple hundred dollars a year per club. They make that up the first day they are open at the bar too.
4. And what about all those “waived” sewer connection fees…were they ever collected and if not their collection could contribute to the kinds of revenues that would help the village keep its taxes down and send rebate checks to all tax payers giving village tax payers the relief the Governor says they need and each of us as taxpayers know we do.
5. And there is more once you start to look hard.
Now here is my last thought on this. For some years now a very small band of citizens have been appearing at Budget meeting arguing for change. The Mayor and Board members allied with him can count on one hand the number of people showing up to say so. When that is the case it is easy to ignore those who have called for change. This will continue until it is not just three or four, or five residents who show up. It is going to take hundreds showing up at meetings, emailing, writing letters, lobbying in person their elected officials to change direction. It that does not happen you can kiss any chance of a limited tax freeze and rebates good bye. The Governor is right, entrenched interests rule while the people sleep and until people wake up that will always be the case. If they do wake up and demand control over their money then things will change. What future lies ahead rests not with the Mayor alone but with each and every taxpayer in this village. It’s time to unite and demand better for ourselves. It’s not just Main street that has to do great it’s every street. That job is up to each and everyone of us and no one else.