Local government is focusing on overlapping special districts that operate within Nassau County claiming duplication of services, in many cases, causing increased spending culminating in higher taxes. Because Nassau County residents pay the highest property taxes in the state, and special districts are often cited as one of the reasons, a conference was held on June 8 at Hofstra University's Center for Suburban Studies, organized by Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, and moderated by Richard Guardino, executive dean of the center. The conference was attended by over 300 people indicating that, perhaps, the time has come to address the issue.
What special districts operate in Manhasset, and what special districts are in Port Washington, Great Neck, Roslyn and New Hyde Park? Following is a list, provided by the Town of North Hempstead, with their informative notes on other areas.
A brief history of their formation and attempts to dismantle them are then provided taken from material provided at the June 8 Conference on Nassau County's Special Districts.
Manhasset Garbage District (town operated)
Manhasset-Lakeville Fire and Water District
Manhasset Library (School District Library)
Manhasset Park District
Manhasset School District
Port Washington Garbage District
Port Washington Water Pollution Control (Sewer) District
Port Washington Police District (the only one in the state)
Port Washington_Public Parking District (town run)
Port Washington Water District
Port Washington Fire contracts with the town through a Fire Protection District and the villages directly
Port Washington_Park District - Manhasset Bay Park District (town run)
Great Neck Garbage District (town run)
Great Neck, Two Water Pollution Control (Sewer) Districts - Great Neck and Belgrave.
Great Neck Water - water in Great Neck comes from two places - the Water Authority of Great Neck North and the Manhasset-Lakeville Water/Fire District.
Great Neck Fire also comes from two places the Manhasset-Lakeville Water/Fire District and a contract with a Fire Protection District and the villages directly.
Great Neck Park District
Great Neck Library - the Great Neck Library is an Association library which is neither a special district nor a school district library. However it is a taxing entity with a budget approved by the voters.
Roslyn_Fire contracts with the town through a Fire Protection District and the villages directly.
New Hyde Park Garbage District (town run)
New Hyde Park Water - water in New Hyde Park comes from two places - the Water Authority of Western Nassau and the New Hyde Park Water/Fire District
New Hyde Park Fire comes from the New Hyde Park Water/Fire District
New Hyde Park Park District - New Hyde Park/Clinton G. Martin Park District (town run)
Glen Cove is a city so they don't have specials districts.
Oyster Bay's districts are a separate town from North Hempstead.
Garden City is a village within the borders of the Town of Hempstead.
A brief history follows taken from material provided at the June 8 conference on Nassau County's Special Districts.
"On Jan. 1, 1898, the state legislature created Greater New York, which included the western part of Queens County. The three eastern townships of Queens - Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay - were left out of the legislation. One year later, those towns, with their incorporated villages and unincorporated areas, officially formed Nassau County. In the next few decades, there were several failed attempts to create a charter that consolidated various localities within the county.
"Paralleling these developments, in the early 20th century, special improvement districts were created pursuant to state law to provide municipal services, such as garbage collection or water, to areas of the county that did not otherwise receive those services. These districts were authorized to tax residents to pay for the districts' services. When these special districts were established, Nassau was not the heavily populated suburban county it is today - few people commuted to New York City, and the economy was largely agricultural. Special districts were used extensively to provide services in the county's unincorporated areas. At the same time, Nassau's population was growing rapidly - doubling in size from 1920 to 1930 - more than five times as large as the county was when it was created.
"In 1932, state legislation was enacted that reorganized town governments, and mandated that newly formed special improvement districts be managed directly by town boards. The legislation, however, permitted existing special districts to hold referendums in which district residents could decide to maintain the commissioner-run district structure. As a result, many Nassau commissioner-run districts were maintained.
"In 1936, the Nassau County Charter was approved, creating the basic layout of today's county government. The charter provided for the continued existence of special districts, although some oversight powers, such as the right to audit district operations and to approve district extension petitions, were granted to the county government.
"Many special districts continue to exist today despite criticism of the multilayers of county government, and efforts to reform and consolidate the districts. For example,
"'[a]s early as 1914 a good-government group called the Nassau County Association was lobbying to correct some of the problems in the pattern of local rule. This group won state legislative authorization for the creation of a commission to propose reforms in Nassau's framework of government. The commission's report issued in 1918 asserted that change was necessary and noted a demand 'in particular for a greater centralization and responsibility of authority.' Thus is called for a transfer of authority to an overarching county government which supposedly would overcome the inefficiencies resulting from the division of responsibility among excessively small governmental units. In reporting on the commission's findings, The New York Times announced that the reformed framework would govern Nassau 'like a big city.' This was a red flag for many of Nassau's residents who sought to avoid such big city government at all costs.
"In the 1930s, most public administration experts [found] the "extraordinary fragmentation of government" [in Nassau] to be inefficient and resulted in costly, irresponsible government. Residents had a difficult time fathoming who was in charge, and excessive duplication of effort supposedly increased costs and hampered coordination necessary for improved service."
"During the 1961 campaign for Nassau County Executive Eugene H. Nickerson emphasized the fragmented nature of county government, including the proliferation and lack of transparency of special districts. Nickerson blamed the previous decade's "fantastic rises" in taxes on, among other things, "the perpetuation of fragmented, irresponsible special taxing districts."