Any assessment of the race for Southampton Town supervisor begins with reassessments.
That's the top issue for Jay H. Schneiderman's two challengers, and the Democratic incumbent is keenly aware of dissatisfaction among some homeowners with the town's longtime policy of doing annual reassessments. The method is intended to ensure that more valuable properties pay higher taxes. And if everyone's assessment rises equally, no one pays more than he or she already does because the tax rate is lowered accordingly. But the practice has created problems in pricey Southampton for people whose properties are rising in value even faster than the town's skyrocketing average.
Republican Gregory G. Robins, 69, a fire commissioner from North Sea, says he is paying higher taxes because of higher reassessments, but he downplays the value of his waterfront location and lacks a specific plan fix the problem. Town highway superintendent Alex D. Gregor, 60, of East Quogue, who wrested the Independence Party line from Schneiderman in a primary, says incorrectly that the town and school districts are collecting more taxes because of the rising reassessments. His solution, to freeze values for 10 years and probably more, would only exacerbate inequities, just as a freeze did in Nassau County.
Schneiderman, 57, of Southampton, has frozen values for the next two years while he seeks a tool from Albany akin to the state property tax cap that would further limit upward adjustments to no more than 2 percent a year. But a more nuanced solution is needed.
All three candidates are concerned about climate change and the effect of rising seas and have good ideas about how to adapt, but Gregor goes a step further. Pumping sand onto beaches is fine for now, he says, and he proposes that the five East End towns band together to buy their own dredging machine to do that more quickly and cost-effectively. However, he adds that some coastal homeowners will need to abandon their properties and move inland in the future.
Robins says rightly that the lack of affordable housing remains an issue, and he contends that the town does not consistently enforce ordinances to prevent overcrowding. But Schneiderman, also running on the Conservative and Working Families lines, has worked to increase affordable housing, with developments newly opened or in the pipeline and a law to encourage homeowners to build affordable accessory apartments, and he says code enforcement has increased significantly.
Gregor has a point when he complains about Schneiderman's laid-back demeanor; the supervisor could use some of Gregor's fire. But his deep well of experience and knowledge of government — after one term as supervisor, 12 years in the Suffolk County Legislature and two terms as East Hampton supervisor — leaves him best equipped to resolve the town's thorny issues.
Newsday endorses Schneiderman. — The editorial board