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Long IslandPolitics

Poll: LIers oppose government consolidation

The Riverhead Fire Department in downtown Riverhead. (March

The Riverhead Fire Department in downtown Riverhead. (March 22, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Erin Geismar

ALBANY -- More so than those in other regions of New York, Long Islanders oppose consolidation of local governments, library districts and fire districts, and identify strongly with their local school district, according to a new Marist College survey released Tuesday.

In an extensive poll, Island residents voiced a little more doubt about the idea of merging or sharing services on an array of questions, said Marist pollster Lee Miringoff. While 54 percent of those surveyed statewide said they favored consolidation of their local government with another municipality, just 50 percent of Islanders did.

Fifty-six percent statewide favored library district mergers compared to 44 percent on the Island. For fire districts, it was 48 percent statewide compared to 44 percent on the Island.

"On Long Island, it's a more contentious issue than the rest of the state," Miringoff said.

The reasons? Islanders have a higher-than-average rate of confidence in their local government and a higher rate of satisfaction in terms of value of services for taxes paid. So while rising property taxes are routinely seen as a major concern on the Island, residents are happy with the bang for their tax bucks, Marist said. The high tax rate hasn't reached a "tipping point" that triggers a lack of faith in local government, pollsters said.

"On Long Island, people are comfortable with their local leaders and confident of their local government," said Marist pollster Barbara Carvalho, noting:

60 percent of Islanders said the local services provided were a "good value" for the taxes they pay, compared with 55 percent statewide.

69 percent of Islanders said yes when asked if they were "confident their local decision makers do what's best for their area;" 60 percent statewide.

90 percent of Islanders said they would give their local government a grade of "A," "B," or "C;" 85 percent statewide.

Funded by the Dyson Foundation, the poll sought to capture New Yorkers' views on "rightsizing local government." Marist divided the state into nine regions and surveyed 500 people in each between Feb. 7 and March 3. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

Miringoff said the survey found no correlation between political philosophy and views on consolidation.

"This isn't a Democrat, Republican, independent or tea party issue," he said. "Demography and party affiliation don't drive attitudes on this issue."

Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) said it's no surprise that Island residents expressed slightly stronger opposition to mergers than other parts of the state.

"There's a very, very strong tradition of local control on Long Island that continues despite the economic times we're in," Sweeney said. "People like having local control and input into entities whose members they know and, frankly, trust."

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