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Spitzer Targets Special Taxing Districts

February 8, 2008

Hempstead, NY - Governor Eliot Spitzer is visiting Long Island today on a special mission to terminate "special districts." Public advocates say those tax districts are a boondoggle for bureaucrats, and a losing proposition for local taxpayers, after decades of perks, patronage and nepotism.

Lisa Tyson, with the Long Island Progressive Coalition, argues the practice must stop.

"The abuses that have been going on in these special districts are disgusting, and the governor has really taken action on fixing this. He says no special perks for commissioners, and that garbage pickup should be done by the towns and it'll be much cheaper. We'll save money."

The district reform initiative follows recommendations by the State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness. Those recommendations include ending salaries and benefits for special district commissioners, and placing sanitation services under local town management.

There are more than 200 special districts in Nassau County alone, with commissioners' salaries, junkets and perks for family members costing taxpayers more than one million dollars a year. Tyson says the original idea of savings with special fire, sanitation and water districts morphed into expense, corruption and inefficiency.

"Historically, Long Island has had layers and layers of government, and this has been a way for people to grab power and money by taking it from the taxpayers' pockets, so that a few people are making a hell of a lot of money."

She believes eliminating the special taxing districts would produce both savings and taxpayer equity.

"What's really interesting is, you might live right across the street from someone, and you're paying half the amount of taxes they do, or maybe double. There's just no fairness. These districts need to be taken care of now."

Tyson, Spitzer and the Island's County Executives are urging the state senate to pass legislation to eliminate the special taxing districts once and for all.

Robert Knight/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY