Carl Lalena, with NC Comptroller Howard Weitzman seated to his right, served as master of ceremonies at the meeting of the Manhasset and Port Washington Kiwanis chapter.
On Thursday, March 5, a luncheon meeting was held at Louie's Restaurant in Port Washington sponsored by the Manhasset and Port Washington Kiwanis Chapter, which invited Nassau County Comptroller Howard S. Weitzman as their guest speaker. As an added bonus, Nassau County Legislator Wayne H. Wink, Jr. attended.
The master of ceremonies, Carl Lalena introduced Comptroller Weitzman citing his background as former mayor of Great Neck Estates and the fact that he is the first Nassau County comptroller to bring to the position a background as a certified public accountant. Weitzman quickly won over the attendees by citing the fact that he lives in Great Neck just on the other side of Manhasset Bay. He complimented the setting of Louie's restaurant and said he frequents various locations in Port Washington by crossing Manhasset Bay on his boat.
Comptroller Weitzman spoke of the dilemma of today's financial problems resulting in large measure from the ease in obtaining housing loans by those with limited financial resources. He said personal savings in Nassau County increased an unprecedented 5 percent in 2008 and as a result, county sales taxes decreased. He anticipates a general decrease in Nassau County's revenue in the immediate future. Weitzman said that, contrary to general belief, real estate taxes are not the county's major source of income. The largest source of income comes from the sales tax, which accounts for approximately 40 percent of the county revenue budget. Nassau County has a 2 1/2 billion-dollar budget funded substantially by the sales tax, which brings in $1 billion. County revenues to date are down approximately 7 percent at present and expected to decline to 4 to 8 percent in the future.
Comptroller Weitzman also spoke of the impact of President Obama's stimulus package, which is supposed to yield somewhere between $80 to $85 million for the county over the next 2 1/2 years. The stimulus was sponsored by New York Senator Charles E. Schumer and does not include construction allocations under consideration. Weitzman continually mentioned and endorsed the concept of a reduction in government spending to comply with the law requiring Nassau County to submit a balanced budget. Among the initiatives he supports to ensure a balanced budget are:
• Givebacks in labor relation's contracts.
• The use of red light cameras.
• Reimbursement for police highway patrols on the Long Island Expressway.
• The consolidation of overlapping local governmental agencies and districts in the county.
In his final comments, Weitzman praised the county's free prescription drug discount card, which resulted in a savings of $12 million for Nassau residents in the past year. He emphasized that this program is not an insurance policy but designed for those without insurance. Interested parties many get further information on this program at the website www.Caremark.com/NassauRx or by calling 1-877-321-2652. In concluding his presentation, Weitzman opened a question-and-answer session with the attendees dealing with a variety of topics of concern. He satisfied questioners in a pleasant, informal and knowledgeable manner supported by his in-depth knowledge of economic conditions in Nassau County.
Nassau County legislator Wayne H. Wink, Jr. followed Comptroller Weitzman and reported on his journey to Albany, where he conferred with state legislative officials on economic initiatives for the county. He reported the proposals introduced for the county are progressing and have a good chance of being completed. One of the county's major proposals is the installation of 50 red light cameras. Wink noted and pointed out the success of these cameras in New York City using as an example the camera located on Douglaston Parkway and Northern Blvd. He lightheartedly said that almost everyone you could speak to on this subject either received a summons or knew someone who had received a summons for passing a red light and being caught on camera at Douglaston Parkway.
Another initiative discussed was the request for a proposed increase in the cigarette tax. Wink was queried on the county's role in dealing with illegal aliens. He said illegal aliens present a mixed blessing to the county saying that on the positive side, illegals immigrants pay Social Security and other taxes, which find their way to the county. On the negative side, he openly discussed and acknowledged the increased cost to our schools and hospitals. Essentially, he said the problem is an issue to be resolved by the federal government. He emphasized that the county is cooperating with immigration authorities when illegal aliens are arrested.