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Village leaders challenge state oversight

The Suffolk County Village Officials Association is protesting two state proposals that it says threaten to sap village control: freezing property tax hikes and establishing regional water oversight.

In a Jan. 24 letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Babylon mayor and SCVOA president Ralph Scordino said the tax freeze proposal was a step in the "wrong direction."

Municipalities can vote to exceed the state's 2 percent cap on tax increases. Cuomo proposed in his State of the State address on Jan. 9 to freeze for two years property tax hikes, with incentives for local governments to stay within the tax cap.

But the SCVOA says that would take control from villages.

"The 2 percent tax cap continues to ignore a village government's need to improve its capital infrastructure," Scordino wrote.

Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri, a SCVOA member, said the proposal reduces the power of villages to efficiently govern themselves. "I really believe the biggest threat to villages is the tax cap," he said. The SCVOA also opposes a bill introduced in October by state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) to establish a Long Island water commission with the power to override village zoning codes.

Scordino had called the bill "duplicative" of existing federal, state and county legislation governing "clean water."

After a meeting with state officials and environmental groups Thursday, Scordino said he believes the bill's language will include village officials' concerns.

Sweeney said the "ultimate goal is cleaner water for all Long Islanders" and added, "there is absolutely no attempt to override the local decision-making process here."

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