Website maps LI's special districts

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Hoping to educate Long Islanders about how the region is organized, the Long Island Index has launched a website that maps special districts such as fire, police, school, library, parks and sewer districts in Nassau County's villages, towns and two cities.

The website -- longislandindexmaps.org -- will in a few months contain the same information for Suffolk County, said Ann Golob, director of the index, a project of the Rauch Foundation that gathers and publishes data about the Island.

Pulling together the data for Suffolk is taking longer because officials had to go to the assessors' offices in each of the county's 10 towns, she said. In Nassau, all the data came from the county assessor's office, and staff verified the data against a variety of records.

"We've been working on this over a year and a half to ensure accuracy," Golob said.

The mapping of the special districts, a collaboration with the Center for Urban Research at CUNY Graduate Center, had two objectives.

"One, I would hope that people would just be curious and want to know more about their community, who's providing services," Golob said. Material on the site includes contact information for the different types of districts and the dates when the various districts hold elections.

"The other thing I hope it will propel people to do is look at one service across the county and see how many providers there are," she added. "For example, if you look at water, there are so many providers in Nassau County, each with their own control." Forty water districts are listed on the website.

The maps might spark discussion, Golob said, with some people asking, "Is this the best way to manage a single, scarce resource?"

An accompanying report on the website, by the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester, provides the historical context for the development of special districts on the Island, and includes Excel spreadsheets laying out the districts that are on the website.

Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, in a statement called the maps "an opportunity to think outside the box about consolidation, which has the potential to improve efficiencies and stabilize taxes."

John D. Cameron, chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, praised the maps, saying, "If we have any chance at economizing our government here on Long Island, taxpayers need to understand what services are being provided, by whom, or any potential overlap in services that exist."

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