Last week, New Hyde Park Village Mayor, Warren Tackenberg, who is also the president of the Nassau County Village Officials Association, met with county legislators to outline the need for villages to receive their fair share of the county sales tax.
The NCVOA officials appeared before the Nassau County Legislative Towns and Villages Committee chaired by Legislator Francis Becker and held in the legislative board room in Mineola. In his opening remarks Legislator Becker invited the representative members of the NCVOA to share their concerns with his colleagues on the committee including Legislators Dennis Dunne, John Ciotti, Richard Nicolello, Salvatore Pontillo, Lisanne Altman and Barbara Johnson.
At the outset Tackenberg applauded the committee for arranging the meeting and for recognizing the 64 villages that belong to the NCVOA and their concerns. Stressing the need for a share of the county sales tax, Tackenberg outlined several areas where individual villages could assume a function currently performed by Nassau County that would reduce the county's expenditure and the money could be allocated to the villages in form of sales tax revenue sharing.
Tackenberg explained, "Our most pressing concern right now is to receive an equitable share of the sales tax revenues which was anticipated by the villages last year and then voted out of the budget in the 11th hour."
Tackenberg continued, "All villages are facing the pressure of tax certiorari judgments, increasing costs and the need for capital improvements. The shops, stores and restaurants within the 64 villages contribute a substantial amount to the overall sales tax collected from the county, but at the present time, the villages do not receive a penny of this sales tax money."
Tackenberg added, "This situation exists in spite of the fact that enabling legislation to extend a portion of the sales tax was in place and was to be shared with the 64 villages by the county. Last year Nassau County Executive Thomas S. Gulotta recommended that $9 million of the sales tax money be allocated to the villages, but it was removed from the budget by the county legislators in the final budget process. "
Bayville Mayor Victoria Siegel was next to speak and she reminded the legislators of the overwhelming needs of the villages. She said that Bayville had to raise its property taxes 18 percent this year to meet certiorari obligations and the loss of the sales tax revenue was a critical blow to Bayville. Mayor Siegel said, "I urge you not to turn your backs on any sales tax revenue sharing proposals this year."
Lynbrook Mayor Gene Scarpato said, "My village has been caught between a rock and a hard place. Reassessment is a dirty word in politics and it is risky for a politician to want to implement. It may not be politically healthy to do, but we have to have the 'guts' to do what is right for our villages. The county is the place to start, not the villages. Villages will follow the county's lead."
Mayor Scarpato continued, "Former Mayor Francis Becker, Sr. had the foresight to reassess the Village of Lynbrook during his administration. The Village of Lynbrook lost approximately $40 million in assessed valuation during the past 12 years. Our assessed valuation went from $229,409, 991 in 1988 and now in 1999 we are at $190, 211, 581. We have to make up the tax loss since it has a major effect on our tax rate as well as our tax certioraris."
Scarpato went on, "Nassau County has a high equalization rate (approximately 8 percent) into which the villages are tied. Villages suffer tax certioraris that are crippling all of our budgets. Phoebe Goodman, of the Nassau County Citizens Budget Committee is a strong advocate for the county to reassess. Chairman of the Nassau County Board of Assessors, Charles O'Shea has appointed a committee to study the pros and cons of reassessment. Do we, the villages, know what direction or the consensus of the members of that committee? Wouldn't it be wise to appoint a representative from the VOA to that committee? However, County Legislator Francis Becker is checking on whether or not a member of the VOA can sit on such a committee and he will get back to us. He believes that it would be a good addition to the committee."
Mayor Scarpato concluded his statement by saying, "Presently and increasingly so, due to the inequities in taxation on private property, there is a tremendous imbalance in the fair share of taxation and it is getting worse all the time. The more the large corporations file for tax certioraris and win reductions, the more the imbalance is created, since those who do not file must pick up the difference."
Next to speak was Freeport Mayor Bill Glacken who stated that his village was forced to increase its property taxes 12 percent, a figure that could have been reduced to 4 1/4 percent if the $9 million share of the sales tax revenue had been kept in the final budget that was adopted by the Nassau County Legislators.
Mayor Glacken said, "Freeport's portion of that sales tax money would have amounted to $850,000. That financial infusion would have been a major advantage in helping Freeport to recover from the fiscal crisis created by the previous administration; to cover its much needed capital improvement plan and provide necessary services to the residents. Freeport is the second largest village in Nassau County, next to Hempstead, and it, too has a diverse population."
Mayor Glacken added, "Fair is fair, Freeport pumps a substantial amount of money into the sales tax revenue collected by the county. I am asking that the state lawmakers responsible for extending the sales tax enabling legislation to this year include language requiring mandatory sales tax revenue sharing with the villages this time."
In closing the NCVOA portion of the meeting President Mayor Warren Tackenberg emphasized that the first priority of the NCVOA and its members is the equitable distribution of sales tax revenues, a situation that has reached the level of critical need to the villages.