Nassau Comptroller Howard Weitzman has done a terrific job auditing special districts and exposing wasteful, possibly fraudulent, behavior. All organizations need their watchdogs and there is no doubt that special districts generally do fly 'under the radar.' The problem with Mr. Weitzman's 'consolidate all garbage districts' agenda, as espoused in the Jan. 11 issue, is that he makes no distinction between districts that are run well and districts that are run poorly. He wants to consolidate them all.
Back in 2005, after completing an audit of the Port Washington Garbage District, Mr. Wietzman wrote "... administrative costs accounted for less than 2 percent of the Port Washington Garbage District's total district expenses. The total cost to taxpayers for garbage pickup and disposal was similarly low, averaging only $248 annually, the report found. The only areas of concern found by the auditors," said Comptroller Weitzman, "were the lack of an established procurement policy for professional services (e.g. attorneys) and the absence of a written contract specifying the terms and scope of that work." (Since that time, the district has adjusted those minor procurement procedures to comply with the audit recommendations.)
Shortly after that audit, at a presentation sponsored by the General Council of Homeowners Assns. of Port Washington, Mr. Weitzman stated flatly that 'no one can do the job cheaper' than the Port Washington Garbage District. However he still supported consolidation of the Port Washington Garbage District, admitting that costs would go up, but not by much, and it wasn't a big deal. That attitude is precisely what has created the general problem with special districts. One more employee, one more truck, one more whatever, was not a significant increase by itself, but when all these items get added together, they eventually make a big difference.
Here are some facts about the Port Washington Garbage District:
· In 2007, the total pay for all three commissioners was $11,600. The commissioners receive no benefits.
· The district has no employees and owns no vehicles. The commissioners do all the work and use their personal vehicles for district business at their own expense.
· In town-run districts, historically, the town has added an administrative charge on the order of 8 to 10 percent of the budget. Our 2008 budget is approximately $2 million, so the town administrative fee would likely be in the $160,000 to $200,000 range.
Clearly, consolidation will only serve to increase our already heavy tax burden in Port Washington. We have no trouble with Mr. Wietzman exposing rogue districts, but when it comes to the Port Washington Garbage District, we'd like him to remember the old adage: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Commissioners, Port Washington Garbage District