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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Nassau League of Women Voters comments on special districts

A new state law is supposed to make it easier to consolidate special taxing districts, which have been blamed for high property taxes, particularly in Nassau County.

"It really is a very doable process," state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said last summer. "You don't need to be a lawyer. You don't need to be a political scientist. All you need is a little energy and motivation."

However, the League of Women Voters of Nassau County, weighed in this week to argue that the law, which took effect March 21st, makes it hard for voters to shape reform on their own.

Here are some excerpts from the letter:

“This new law establishes a comprehensive procedure to consolidate or dissolve several kinds of local government entities: towns, villages and special districts. There are three paths to consolidation or dissolution: Governing Body-Initiated, Voter-Initiated and County-Initiated.

“In the Governing Body-Initiated process the law provides a referendum for towns and villages to vote on a consolidation or dissolution plan developed by the local governing body. However, the law specifically denies a referendum for the voters in special districts to accept or reject the governing body’s plan for consolidation or dissolution

“The Voter-Initiated process provides a referendum for voters in towns, villages and special districts to vote on the question of whether to consolidate or dissolve. If the voters approve of the idea, then the local governing body develops a plan which, if approved by the local governing body, goes into effect without further voter involvement.

“However, voters dissatisfied with the plan approved by the local governing body can undertake the formidable challenge of petitioning for a Permissive Referendum before the law goes into effect.

This process requires gathering and filing a petition with signatures of 25% or 15,000 registered voters within a tight 45-day time-frame. If the voters petitioning effort is successful, then, and only then, will they be granted a referendum to vote on the consolidation or dissolution plan approved by the local governing body.

“Counties already had the power to consolidate cities, towns, villages and special districts under Section 33-a of the Municipal Home Rule Law. This new law extends county law to include dissolution. However, neither the original or amended law mentions a referendum, permissive or otherwise, for voters in special districts to vote to accept or reject a county initiated plan to consolidate or dissolve their district.

“Currently, there is a NYS Assembly Bill, A10432, sponsored by Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (16 AD), and a NYS Senate Bill, S7238, introduced by Senator Craig Johnson, (7 SD). Both address some of these as well as other issues in the new law.”

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