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Opinion

The Port Washington Public Library is again burying in its budget and accumulating hundreds of thousands of dollars in surplus funds, triple the amount at the start of last year, while telling the public it needs every penny to run the library. At the same time the library is continuing its unrelenting surge of budget increases at double to triple the rate of inflation. Combined with the enormous budget increases of the 16 to 17 other taxing authorities, the overall tax burden for residents and businesses has become unfair, unjustified and in many cases unaffordable, resulting in Nassau County paying the highest property taxes by far out of 3,000 counties in the United States. Not only do we pay these taxes directly but indirectly as well through increased consumer prices and commercial rents. On April 12, I'm voting no on the library budget.

Last March, after the library budget for the current fiscal year ending June 30, '05 was soundly defeated on the first vote, I attended a board of trustees meeting at which the trustees were preparing a second budget to be resubmitted to the taxpayers. They trimmed only $50,000 or less than 1 percent off the defeated budget claiming they needed every nickel for expenses and that any further reduction would result in closing down library operations. In fact, the library is ending its June 30, '05 fiscal year with a surplus of $375,617, more than triple the $126,203 with which it started the year! While asserting austerity, the trustees were clearly planning obesity.

Adding insult to injury, of the $375,617 surplus, the library is now proposing returning only $50,000 to the taxpayers, keeping $325,617 for itself, triple the 2 percent cap New York Law imposes on school districts. Since the Port Washington Public Library is a school district library, it should abide by the same public policy considerations that underlie the 2 percent cap applicable to schools and return another $200,000 to the taxpayers.

The library is now at it once again, proposing for the next fiscal year another unrelenting budget increase double to triple the rate of inflation generating yet another year-end surplus of $373,000 from which they again plan on retaining triple the 2 percent cap.

At the board of trustees meeting I attended last March, I suggested that with 17 - 18 taxing authorities all wanting more of everything every year, government budgets were no longer just a matter of justifiability but also of affordability. A resident who was in attendance, responded that "if you can't afford to live here, you ought to move out." The six members of the board of trustees present at the meeting and the library director, failed to repudiate or disassociate themselves from such a repugnant point of view. I would invite the trustees' and director's attention to the blistering New York State Comptroller's Office Audit Report of the Port Washington Library in the 1990s and suggest that humility in government is a virtue never to be forgotten.

To every resident who does not want to move out, to every person who has just moved in, to every voter who cares about others as well as yourself, to all who seek fairness, economy and honesty in government, I invite you to join me in voting no on the library budget on April 12 at the public library.

Steven M. Schlussel


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