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Maragos: First Priority is Nassau County

U.S. Senate hopeful addresses ongoing issues at town hall

Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto introduced Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos as “hopefully our next U.S. Senator from the State of New York” at Hicksville Community Center’s town hall meeting on March 22.

Venditto lauded Maragos for his work as comptroller since he assumed the post in 2009, but reassured residents that Maragos’ next venture, if elected, may have a greater impact on the county than his current one.

“To have a gentleman like George Maragos as a U.S. Senator, who is Nassau-oriented in his thinking – I’m not diminishing the role of comptroller – but that would serve us very, very well. The things he could accomplish for Nassau County in that position would be mind-boggling,” said Venditto.

Maragos and his staff monitor the $2.6 billion budget for Nassau County, which has approximately 1.3 million residents. During his first year, Maragos noted, the county had a budget deficit of $135 million and was on the verge of bankruptcy.

“Although I’m running for the U.S. Senate, my first priority is Nassau County, to do the best job that I can to ensure that we get through this very difficult financial period,” said Maragos, who came into his position with 35 years of experience in the private financial sector.

The comptroller explained how streamlining government with County Executive Edward Mangano and reducing unnecessary contracts ($158 million) helped the county to report a $26 million surplus in 2010.

“It hasn’t been easy, but for the third consecutive year we have not raised taxes. Mangano eliminated the energy tax in his first year and did it while having to absorb pension contribution increases of over 60 percent, health insurance premium increases over 30 percent and all other inflationary costs,” Maragos cited.

“To say that he has been performing an exceptional job under extraordinarily difficult circumstances is a bit of an understatement – he’s running the 100-yard dash with a 100-pound concrete block on his back and he’s doing it quite well,” said Venditto, adding, “I’m glad I don’t have his job, but I’m glad he has his job, because he’s handling it very well.”

Regarding ongoing Nassau County issues, Maragos provided specifics for the approximately 30 residents in attendance.

Maragos said the Nassau County public-private bus partnership has “restored better service at a much better cost” and noted that the deal hasn’t been in the public spotlight recently “because it has been a successful transition.”

As far as the police precinct consolidation goes, the comptroller said public safety “should not be comprised” once the plan takes shape and that the county will eventually save nearly $20 million. Nassau County Police Department Deputy Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said he prefers the term “administrative realignment” as opposed to consolidation.

“We’re shifting how we do work, what drives activity. There will be an increased number of police officers available to address crime issues. We’ve reduced 148 administrative positions and created 48 problem-oriented police [POP] cops,” explained Krumpter.

The Third Precinct, Krumpter noted, is the county’s busiest, handling approximately 1,900 cases per year. The Second Precinct, which covers the Hicksville area, is a less active precinct and will provide some relief for the Third Precinct following the realignment.

Maragos later advised residents on a sour subject for some residents: property tax assessments.

“There continues to be issues, but there has also been significant progress made. In 2009, the property tax refund was up to $150 to $160 million and in the first year reduced to $80 million. In 2011, it was reduced to around $70 million, so we’ve seen successive improvement,” said Maragos.

The comptroller said fair and equitable assessing has resulted in “less appeals and therefore less refunds out to the property owner.” He advised residents to seek out comparable assessments to help resolve any uncertainties.

“Assessment is not perfect, there are still certain inequities within the system. If you feel you have approximately identical homes and your neighbor’s house is assessed lower than yours, file an appeal, and in most cases you will get a reduction in your assessment, therefore a reduction in your property tax and school tax,” Maragos said.

“We haven’t solved all of our fiscal challenges because our economy hasn’t recovered. Our sales tax, which is our major source of revenue, has not recovered and is still below the 2008 level. We have managed to keep the county afloat and protected the taxpayers without raising property taxes,” said Maragos, adding, “No other county government in the state has been able to do the same.”

News

Looking for a place to work on your bedside manner and start a promising new career in the process? Look no farther than your hometown.

The Vocational Education and Extension Board (VEEB), a division of the county that oversees educational facilities such as the Fire Service Academy and EMS Academy, recently transplanted one of its facilities — The School of Practical Nursing — into a new location right in the heart of Hicksville, where they recently held an open house to celebrate their new home.

A group of like-minded local residents banded together and saved more than 200 area trees from the chopping block — for now.

A state judge ordered Nassau County and the Department of Public Works to stop cutting down trees along South Oyster Bay Road, granting a temporary restraining order to a group of residents spearheading an effort to save the trees.

State Supreme Court Judge Antonio Brandveen scheduled a hearing on Thursday, Oct. 16 for the county to address complaints from residents, in particular a group called Operation STOMP (Save Trees Over More Pavement) founded by Hicksville native Tanya Lukasik.The Public Works department had planned to removed more than 200 30-foot trees in communities ranging from Plainview, Bethpage, Hicksville and Syosset.


Sports

The Girls Varsity soccer team, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, wore pink uniforms and pink socks in their game on Oct. 8 against MacArthur whom they defeated 1-0. The girls and boys soccer programs at Hicksville High School are selling pink ribbon car magnets with a soccer ball and HHS on it with the words “Kick Cancer” on the ribbon. All the money raised will go to the Sarah Grace Foundation, which is a local foundation trying to beat pediatric cancer. The players plan to raise $1,000 for this organization

— From Hicksville High School

Hicksville native progressing through Mets system

The Mets minor league system is enjoying a rare period of prosperity. For years, it was barren due to trading off high-ceiling players for major leaguers, or neglecting the draft in favor of the free agent market. Since General Manager Sandy Alderson took over, the organization has reversed course and put a much greater emphasis on player development. During his second-to-last season, however, former GM Omar Minaya took a chance and drafted a local catcher, Cam Maron, out of Hicksville High School in the 34th round.


Calendar

Board of Education Meeting

October 22

Oktoberfest

October 25-26

Pancake Breakfast

October 26



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