Opinion

(Ed.'s note: The following letter was sent to Helen Chen, the business manager at the Port Washington Water Pollution Control District in reply to a memorandum dated Aug. 28 to Barry Loeb and the writer from Don Kurz, the chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the PWWPCD and the district's revised and reduced budget. This memorandum was sent in reply to written comments Barry Loeb and the writer had made regarding the district's proposed budget for 2008.)

I want to join Barry in thanking you, Bob Breslin and the commissioners for Don Kurz' very thoughtful reply memorandum to our comments and suggestions and for your revised budget. It is indeed enormously gratifying to see democracy work - that input from the people can find a receptive home on the part of elected officials.

Barry Loeb said early on in the first year we became active with the special districts, in 1988, that what we sought was "justifiability" and "accountability." I think the district's memorandum gives full force and effect to Barry's comments of, shall I dare say, 19 years ago.

The memorandum and the budget constitute a shining example of why I have long maintained that the PWWPCD is a model government agency.

I am happy to see the district's use of various reserve funds which I am pleased to say has been a result, in part, of the productive communication between the district and General Council members over the years. The use of these funds accomplishes a number of goals: It helps to stabilize costs over the years but most importantly, is an important budgeting tool in establishing a solid budget and by that I mean, far better to have specific reserves for specific purposes, than building surplus into budget lines which leads to poor budgetary control during the year and creates a budget the community cannot understand. There is good reason to have the kind of reserves your district has. Then you have a budget line-by-line tight to historic justification and real economic needs.

I am also pleased the district presented in its memorandum your cost-saving initiatives. The General Council in past years passed a resolution encouraging the districts to seek cost-saving initiative ideas from their employees since no one is in a better position to suggest these measures than the people in the field and on the front line and I am pleased the PWWPCD does so. It also gives great satisfaction and incentive to all the employees to know their opinion is valued and heard. The district should continue to present these cost-saving initiatives in its annual budget presentation.

I want to join Barry in thanking the district for taking our suggestions and comments to heart in reviewing and re-evaluating your proposed budget and for finding areas in which reductions could be achieved.

I also want to applaud the district for preparing a three-year financial projection of its total financial expenditures. I believe this is unique in Port Washington. The General Council has long endorsed our taxing authorities preparing long-range financial plans and projections, not just for capital projects, but for total expenditures. This is an important budgeting tool for the district and important information for public consumption. And your three-year projections certainly present a restrained and stable profile.

The PWWPCD continues to stand out for preparing what has been recognized as the best taxpayer friendly budget presentation in Nassau County.

I agree with Barry that if all our taxing authorities could follow the example of the PWWPCD, I think we would enter what in religious terms would be referred to as the messianic era, where tax stability rather than tax increases would be the new reality.

As I noted earlier, the total tax pie is enormous and growing. The French Revolution began because of the rise of the price of bread in Paris. And I'm chagrined that the cost of a slice of pizza in Port Washington is up to $2.25 a slice. This is not meant to be funny. The cost of consumer prices and the cost of living on Long Island is outrageous and government expenditures is a huge reason why. Unfortunately, the PWWPCD is only a small part of the total tax pie. As the commissioners will recall, I long ago suggested you make available your budgetary resources to other taxing authorities in Port Washington so they too could follow your example.

Steve Schlussel


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