Long Island residents will vote in more than 150 special district elections in Nassau and Suffolk counties Tuesday.
The day's voting includes elections for commissioner in roughly 130 fire districts. The commissioners in those districts control more than $300 million in collective spending of taxpayer dollars.
"We think it's important that people vote," said Robert Leonard, spokesman for the Fireman's Association of the State of New York. "People have a chance to be involved in this process."
The special districts are independent taxing agencies whose commissioners don't collect a salary. The commissioners draft budgets, buy equipment and set policy.
Residents do not vote on budgets, which have already been adopted by boards of commissioners. Some districts charge an average of less than $200 per household while some charge more than $600.
The highest fire taxes on Long Island are in Gordon Heights, which charges about $1,500 per year on average. Phillip Gordon, a candidate for fire commissioner in Gordon Heights, called taxes "the No. 1 issue" in the district.
His opponent, commissioner Carter Brown, said "this community needs a fire district" despite the tax burden.
A 2005 Newsday series revealed excessive and unaccountable spending by some fire districts, and state laws mandated more transparency in operations.
As a result, district elections across Long Island take place on the second Tuesday in December, except for a handful for barrier beach districts in Suffolk that hold them in July.
A list of districts, candidates, and voting times and places is available on www.newsday.com.