Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 01 October 2010 00:00
Mineola Mayor Jack Martins delivered the State of the Village Address last Tuesday night at Village Hall, in which he chronicled the overall progression of Mineola from when he took office seven years ago to today. In 2003, Mineola was nearly bankrupt, with approximately $33 million in long-term debt.
Seven years ago, things were different in Mineola and this country. Unemployment was low, the stock market wasn’t clinging to its last gasps of breath and the real estate market was thriving. However, in Mineola, according to Martins, the village was on the brink of bankruptcy, was mired in debt and facing a budget shortfall.
“We were broke, no reserves, and we were buried in debt,” Martins said. “Our economy was flush, yet Mineola was strapped, our taxpayers were paying more, but getting less.”
Today, while other levels of government are raising taxes and cutting services, Martins said to members of the Chamber of Commerce and village personnel that this kind of function is all but extinct in Mineola.
The village’s debt sits approximately at $20 million, a reduction of $2 million from 2009. Before Martins was in office, the village was constantly bonding and borrowing money to pay off debts. Under Martins’ watch, the village has not borrowed any money, the mayor said.
“We have proven that government can operate and thrive on a pay-as-you go basis without continuing borrowing or onerous tax increases,” the Mayor said.
The result of that is a positive unreserved fund balance that Martins says allows the village to pay down its debt. “So much has happened over these last seven years,” he said. “Our economy has been to the brink of ruin not seen since the Great Depression,” he said. “Our stock market is volatile, unemployment is at its highest mark in decades.”
More village savings were created under a new waste disposal contract with Omni of Babylon. Tipping fees for solid waste disposal accounted for 10-percent of Mineola’s tax base, or about $1.2 million.
The village signed a contract in May 2010 with rates below those offered by the Town of North Hempstead, who previously held a waste disposal contract with Mineola. “Ten years from now we will be paying less in tipping fees as a community than we were just a year ago,” Martins stated. Estimates are that the village is already realizing a 29-percent savings under the Omni contract.
With the village’s 15-year contract with the Town of North Hempstead coming to an end this past April, the village asked for proposals from private contractors as well as the town for solid waste disposal. According to documents pertaining to the price quotes, Omni quoted the village prices of $64.75 per ton for solid waste, $60 per ton for yard waste and $50 per ton for street sweepings. North Hempstead quoted the garbage price at $72.75 per ton for solid waste, $68 per ton of yard waste and $55 per ton for street sweepings.
Martins credited much of the savings to the village reassessment in 2007 of all properties, which was the first in approximately 70 years. Mineola was paying approximately 10-percent of its income out in tax certiorari settlements, which is now cut down to $700,000 this year, according to Martins.
“Eliminating future tax certiorari claims on an accelerated basis will pay off that much sooner for our taxpayers,” Martins said. “The cost of going through the certiorari process has already paid for itself.” Martins said since the reassessment, village taxes have gone up about 1.7-percent annually, or less than $20 per year per household.