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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

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. That’s just what a Hicksville baker is doing, except in her case it isn’t lemons, but a gluten-free diet. Her lemonade stand of choice is her brand new gluten-free eatery, “Jac’s Bakeshop and Bistro,” which held its grand opening on April 12.  

“I’m a baker who can’t even eat wheat or eggs,” said owner Jaclyn Messina, chuckling at the irony.

There’s a lot you can do in 99 minutes. You could cook dinner, play a non-stop soccer game, watch a romantic comedy or hang out with Odysseus, Achilles and Hercules. If you chose the last option, Hicksville High School’s upcoming theatre production of The Iliad, The Odyssey, and All of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less  is the place for you.

The mouthful of a title says it all. The cast will take on over 80 characters as they speed through all of Greek mythology, including popular tales such as The Iliad and The Odyssey, in a little over an hour and a half.


Sports

Vito Sciascia was recently named Hicksville Soccer Club’s Volunteer of the Year at the 2014 Long Island Junior Soccer League 2014 Kick-off Convention.

Sciascia started coaching travel soccer in 1998 for a boys team, the Flash, who later changed their names to the Muddogs. He could always be found at various sporting fields trying to recruit new soccer players. He would make each of these boys feel important and there was always room for another player. He tried to never turn a child away and when other coaches were having trouble with a boy he would take them on his team, no one was ever too much for him. Sciascia found the good in all those boys and they in return respected him. He took them to many tournaments and solicited enough sponsorship so that it was never a financial burden on their families.

Cantiague Park Senior Men’s Golf League had its first tournament on Thursday April 4. Twenty golfers came out on on a crisp but sunny morning. Charlie Hong was the only man to score under a 40, with a 38 and won for low overall score. Jim O’ Brien  scored a 41, and won low overall net in a tie-breaker with Mike Guerriero.

Competition on the nine-hole course is divided into two divisions. Flight A is for players with a handicap of 13 or lower. Flight B is for players with a handicap of 14 or more. The league is a 100 percent handicap league. Any man 55 years or older is eligible for membership. We have many openings for this year, and you can sign up anytime throughout the the season.


Calendar

The Acchords Concert

April 26

Senior Citizen Luncheon

May 1

Curtains

May 1-3



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com