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Comptroller’s Report: April 2, 2010

Special Districts and Villages Should Be Judged on Merit By Local Communities

The Government Reorganization and Citizens Empowerment Act took effect on March 21, 2010. The new state law is meant to help reduce the layers of numerous local governments and special districts by simplifying the process to consolidate or dissolve them. The ultimate goal is to help reduce the cost of local government for the taxpayers.

The legislation, signed into law in June 2009, provides that consolidation or dissolution of a special district may be initiated in one of three ways:

1. By resolution of the special districts’ governing bodies.

2. By petition of the voters residing in the district(s), signed by 10 percent of the registered voters, or 5,000 registered voters, whichever is less.

3. By vote of the Nassau County legislature.

Before a district is consolidated or dissolved the proposal must be presented to the voters at a general or special election and approved by a majority.

What does this new legislation mean to the voter? It gives the voter the power to say enough is enough when it comes to abusive practices by their local governments or the high cost of the services they provide.

Voters, however, must judge their local government entities and special districts on their individual merit. A majority of special districts provide vital local services such as sanitation, water and fire protection, to the residents of Nassau County at a great value and are responsive to the local communities they serve. That is why the Nassau County Comptroller’s office will not be advocating broad consolidation or dissolution of special districts or villages. No credible formal analysis has been presented that would support the wholesale consolidation of special districts and villages in Nassau County by resulting in lower costs.

Voters should keep in mind that were these special districts to be eliminated their functions would still have to be performed by another governmental entity.

The Comptroller’s office understands that a few special districts have been unresponsive to the community and others have experienced abuses by employees and commissioners. Those practices will no doubt result in a justified second look by the residents who favor dissolution and consolidation.

For more information from the Comptroller’s Office please visit our website at http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Comptroller/index.html.