Residents of the East Park neighborhood of Roslyn Heights pay their share in local, county and state taxes. But some say the burden, especially concerning sewer taxes, is getting to be too much. East Park civic leaders claim that homeowners there pay not one, but two taxes for services that they don't even receive.
According to Nurhan Hamarat, secretary of the East Park Civic Association, up to 18,000 households in Nassau County pay two sewer taxes, one for maintenance and one for collection, for a line that doesn't run through their neighborhoods. Some of these households are located in Oyster Bay and Long Beach. Others are in Roslyn Heights. The civic association is now mounting a campaign to have the two taxes repealed.
Hamarat said the first tax was imposed in the mid-1960s. In 1965, a county resolution created a Sanitary Sewage Disposal District, one that ran from the southern edge of Roslyn, down to the south shore, including Roslyn Heights. This resolution, Hamarat said, authorized the construction of a large sewage disposal plant, which would collect sanitary sewage from the entire disposal district, and was designed to accomplish that by allowing sewage to flow, by gravity, from north to south.
The resolution also authorized the collection of a sewer tax from all property owners in the disposal district covered by the resolution, to initially collect enough money to build the disposal plant and thereafter to pay for the operation of the disposal plant. The funds for plant construction and eventual operation were raised by collecting taxes from local residents.
"Because the disposal plant was to service all properties within the district, every property owner in the district was taxed even before the plant was in, and even though no sewage was being installed," Hamarat said.
In 1973, a resolution was adopted which created smaller Sewer Collection Districts within the larger disposal district. Now, an additional tax was levied on the property owners within each of those districts to pay for the installation and maintenance of sewer lines in the streets of the collection district. Those lines would then tie-in to the main sewers leading to the disposal plant.
East Park is located in such a Sewer Collection District, as well as in the original Sewer Disposal District, even though that neighborhood does not have any sewer lines. Decades later, both taxes remain in place.
Hamarat said that many homeowners remain unaware of the sewer taxes. They simply pay whatever taxes are demanded of them. However, in recent weeks, Hamarat noted that the situation is beginning to change. More of his neighbors are becoming involved in East Park's ongoing struggle, as are other civic associations in Roslyn Heights.
Last January, Hamarat appeared before the Nassau County legislature to give a brief history of the two taxes. His testimony did receive a reply from Peter Gerbasi, the county's commissioner of public works.
In a letter dated April 3, Gerbasi wrote to Hamarat, telling them that the treatment and disposal of sanitary sewage generated within Sewage Disposal District III (which runs through Roslyn Heights) provides a "mutual benefit to all county residents" simply by "maintaining the quality of the groundwater and surface waters."
Gerbasi added that his department plans to begin re-evaluating the collection and disposal district boundaries in an effort to reduce the yearly costs for administrating and operating the three sewage disposal districts and the 27 sewage collection districts. Gerbasi said the county hopes to develop such a plan by either the end of this year or the beginning of 2003.
While the civic association considers attempts to reduce such costs an improvement, its members still feel overwhelmed by the overall tax and costs burdens regarding sewage maintenance. According to Hamarat, Roslyn Heights residents are groaning under "triple or quadruple" taxation. First, there are the two county taxes that the civic association wants repealed. There is also a tax paid to the Roslyn Water District. In addition, Roslyn Heights homeowners operated their own private cesspools, the yearly costs of which range from $500 to $1,000 per year.
Whatever the county decides, the entire issue will continue to keep the civic association busy, by lobbying both their elected officials and their fellow homeowners.