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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

Hicksville’s interim School Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso gave a review of the district’s recently completed capital projects and facilities updates at Nov. 19’s board of education meeting. Most of the projects were completed over the summer in each of the district’s schools.

“Thanks to Director of Facilities and Operations, Dave Bell and his staff, we are structurally sound,” said Bonuso. “So much of what we do is in-house which saves the district money and our staff makes the facilities as special as the students they serve.”

The community is rallying together to raise funds for a Hicksville native who has been battling to get a service dog.

Nancy Burpee is a 49-year-old competitive swimmer and single mother with a rare genetic terminal illness called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which causes the deterioration of the connective tissues, tendons, ligaments and vital organs.


Sports

For the past 11 months, Hicksville’s Marlo Signoracci has been training for IRONMAN, one of the most physically challenging athletic events out there. The triathlon includes a swim, bike and run portion. Signoracci recently traveled down to Florida to compete in IRONMAN Florida. Here’s a look at her experience.

Nov. 1, 2014 will be a day in my life I will never forget and will carry with me forever. It truly was the celebration of the last 11 months of training.

The fall athletic season seemed to move quickly, but all teams had outstanding seasons with all teams reaching the playoffs except for two who had their best season in many years.

In addition to athletic acheivements, all of the varsity programs at Hicksville High School also participated in raising more than $4,000 for several charities this past fall: pediatric cancer, breast cancer awareness and cystic fibrosis.


Calendar

Model Railroad Open House

November 28-30

Popcorn Balls

November 30

Craft Fair

November 30



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