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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

The sound of public backlash on Long Island

Joanne O'Leary, of Valley Stream, holds a sign

Joanne O'Leary, of Valley Stream, holds a sign while standing among protesters during a community rally at Hempstead Town Hall against the Green Acres Mall tax breaks, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, to pressure the Town of Hempstead IDA to revoke the agreement. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Public backlash.

How sweet the sound.

And residents on Long Island have been sounding off a lot recently — and getting results.

The board of the Hempstead Town Industrial Development Agency last week revoked tax breaks for renovation of the Green Acres Mall and construction of the adjacent Green Acres Common in Valley Stream.

The new board acted in response to public backlash against a decision by the old board in 2014 to give millions of dollars in tax breaks to the projects, a move that raised some residents’ property tax bills by almost $1,000.

The board’s revocation came after IDA chairman Arthur Nastre said the mall’s owner, California-based Macerich, had not created enough jobs to merit the tax break. In a statement, a mall official disputed that assertion, saying the project had created “hundreds” of union construction jobs, and the tax breaks are part of “a legally binding agreement.”

All of which means the matter likely will end up in court.

But for now, backlash rules the day.

In Suffolk, County Executive Steve Bellone had to withdraw a proposal to double traffic ticket fees — to $110 per ticket — because lawmakers didn’t have the votes to pass it.

Legislators cited public opposition to rising fees for their U-turn on implementing increases they’d approved just last year as part of Suffolk’s 2017 budget.

In addition to the traffic fee increase, Bellone pulled back proposed fees on county contractors and, among other items, new registration fees for companies that — wait for it — clean oven range hoods.

Since then, Bellone and Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) have been sparring over how to plug a newly created hole in the budget. That won’t be easy: Had the proposed fees gone through, Suffolk still would have been left to contend with a $135 million structural budget gap between recurring revenues and expenditures.

To bridge the fee gap, Bellone proposed freezing salaries for non union employees, requiring 10 percent pay cuts for elected officials and new nonunion employees and having elected officials and nonunion employees pay 15 percent of health insurance costs.

Gregory came back with proposals of his own — to cap nonunion employee salaries at $125,000, which would affect some Bellone appointees, and eliminate economic development programs backed by Bellone.

Whatever comes next should be interesting — since all 18 Suffolk legislative seats are up for election in November.

IDA’s and county governments aren’t the only ones feeling the backlash.

Leaders of the Shoreham-Wading River school district pulled back $40,000 in funding for a 2018 senior trip — after an outcry against the board’s decision to use almost $153,000 to pay for seniors who went to Disney World in March.

Interim Superintendent Neil Lederer blamed himself and a lawyer who had advised that the district should pay for the trip, although the board voted to approve the spending as well. The decision to fund what the district considered an “educational trip” roiled Shoreham-Wading River — while also serving as a reminder that most residents in any school district do NOT have children in the schools.

Did the district do enough to mitigate the furor?

Officials will find out on May 16, when residents vote on budgets — which account for the preponderance of most property tax bills — and elect school board members in 124 districts across Long Island.

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