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Opinion

Editorial: Vote 'yes' on state Proposal No. 3, debt on sewage facilities

A worker replaces motors and local control panels

A worker replaces motors and local control panels at a final settling tank at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. (Nov. 28, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

Since 1962, New York's counties, cities, towns and villages have been able to borrow money to build sewage facilities without that borrowing counting against their debt limits. All municipalities have debt limits that are calculated as a percentage of the total assessed value of the property within their borders. The limit exists to keep these governments from overborrowing, and it generally makes good sense.

Sewage facilities have been exempted from this limit for five decades, and the exemptions have worked. Sewage facilities are extremely expensive, but once built they create their own guaranteed sources of revenue, and bonding for sewage projects generally stipulates that the revenue from such projects should go first to paying off the debt.

This amendment is most crucial for fiscally stressed upstate municipalities. Right now, it doesn't have much impact on Long Island; in general, local municipalities aren't close to their debt limits. But strong sewer systems statewide mean strong protections for the environment and a better chance of commercial and residential development statewide.

Vote yes on Proposal No. 3.

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