Friday, 12 June 2009 09:41
Earlier this week, I voted against A.8501, the New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act. This bill, which was introduced less than two weeks prior to our voting on it, was rushed through the Assembly with little regard for public input or opinion. In all actuality, there was very little debate on a bill, which could have serious consequences for millions of New Yorkers, particularly on Long Island.
A.8501 was a revision of the statutory procedure for consolidation and dissolution of local government entities. In place of the current statutory structure, which contains various differing requirements throughout Town Law and Village Law, this bill would enact uniform procedures and requirements applicable to all local government entities. Additionally, the legislation also applies to a wide range of “local government entities,” including towns, villages, districts, special improvement districts or other improvement districts, library districts and other special districts created by law. Exempt under this bill were school districts, city districts and special purpose districts created by counties under the County Law.
I voted against this legislation because, although consolidation is an issue, which should be discussed, the bill contained three flaws. First, the bill offers no guarantees or safeguards against tax rates being raised on individuals in an area being consolidated. If two areas with differing tax rates consolidate, it is very possible that the lower of the two tax rates could be raised, thereby negatively affecting New Yorkers who are already feeling the budget pinch with each tax bill, grocery bill and utility bill they pay.
Secondly, this bill would allow counties to consolidate government entities despite the wishes of the residents in those areas. The bill lays out language which allows for dissolution by resolution of local government entity with little more than a proposed plan and public hearings. There can be an overwhelming majority against a consolidation plan, yet, there is no recourse for these individuals.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I believe this bill would create a public safety disaster. Areas with volunteer fire departments would be adversely affected by this bill because many individuals who serve out of civic pride may not be able to provide the support for a newer and larger area. Although school districts are exempt, fire departments and EMT services are not exempt, despite my call for the bill sponsors to include such language in order to prevent a public safety hazard under the guise of cost savings.
For these reasons, I joined the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, the Association of Fire Districts, the Nassau County Village Officials Association, the Long Island Special District Association and the New York State Association of Towns in opposition to this bill on behalf of the millions of New Yorkers who would be adversely affected by this poorly thought out piece of legislation.
At this time, I believe the New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act is imprudent, unwise and poorly worded. Consolidation is an important goal, which is one that the Assembly should address in the near future when there has been adequate public input and thought from local government leaders and the citizens whom they represent and will be most affected by this change. Until that discussion takes place, I will continue to voice my opposition to legislation that can force consolidation with no taxpayer protections or public safety clauses.
Dave G. McDonough