Both the New York State Senate and State Assembly are currently considering the creation of a Nassau County Sewer and Storm Water Authority, a body that would oversee the operations of such services in the county, including the tax burden on county residents.
The legislatures in Albany are still deciding whether such a body is necessary and if so, what it will look like. The idea for the authority came from the offices of County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi. If Albany approves the idea, then the Nassau County Legislature will also have to okay the authority.
A Sewer and Storm Water Authority would serve to consolidate 27 collection units and three sewer districts. County officials hope that such an authority would lead to a more efficient day-to-day operation of such districts, while ensuring compliance with "tough" environmental and storm water regulations.
County officials said the authority would permit older sewer debt to be refinanced under more favorable terms and restructured to match the useful life of the underlying assets. The Suozzi administration also hopes that through the creation of such an authority, the county may be able to achieve significant savings by issuing debt through New York State's Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) and taking advantage of its 33 to 50 percent interest subsidies. Debt reduction and restructuring are the main driving forces behind the creation of such an authority.
For some local residents, a Sewer and Storm Water authority would have significance, especially in light of revelations that some Roslyn Heights homeowners have been paying a double tax for sewer services that they don't even receive. The opposition to such taxes, which is being spearheaded by the East Park Civic Association, would have to have those levies repealed.
However, it is not known whether the authority, if it ever comes into existence, could do just that. Still, such an authority would serve as a large oversight board, attempting to ensure more efficient and less-costly services. It is possible that the authority would eventually address local grievances on the sewer tax issue.
What Roslyn Heights residents are protesting are two laws, one that came into being in the mid-1960s, the other, in the early 1970s. The resolutions imposed two sewer taxes on certain Roslyn Heights residents, one for maintenance and the other for collection, for a sewer line that doesn't even run through their neighborhood. The two taxes affect several thousand homeowners in Roslyn Heights, plus thousands others in various parts of Nassau County, including villages as far apart as Oyster Bay and Long Beach. In all, about 18,000 Long Island residents are paying the two taxes for non-existent services.
Nurhan Hamarat, a secretary with the East Park Civic Association, said that he became aware of the two taxes after moving to the village several years ago. He added that homeowners in Roslyn Heights have paid the taxes simply because they were either unaware of them or they got used to paying whatever taxes were demanded of them. Recently, however, there has been some opposition to the taxes. More residents, Hamarat said, are waking up to the situation. In addition, other civic associations in Roslyn Heights have been willing to assist East Park in their little struggle with the county.
In fact, county officials have already responded to complaints by the civic association. In a letter sent last spring to Hamarat, Peter Gerbasi, the county's commissioner for public works, said that the sewer line in question provides a "mutual benefit to all county residents" through its maintenance of the quality of groundwater and surface waters.
Anticipating the Suozzi administration's own plans, Gerbasi also said that his department plans an evaluation of the county's collection and disposal district boundaries in an effort to reduce the yearly operating costs of the sewer districts in question. The establishment of a Sewer and Storm Water Authority may be welcome news to Roslyn Heights residents; still, a repeal of the two taxes is what they really seek.