by Steve Levy
Did you know your local town, school or village must have a consolidation plan in place by May 15 for you to be eligible for the state’s tax rebate program? More importantly, do you know if your local government knows about this deadline?
The tax rebate we received late last year was from the first phase of the state’s tax rebate program. The future rebate phase is contingent on your local government saving 1 percent of its tax levy from a plan of consolidation, shared services or mergers. If your local government or school hasn’t developed its plan yet, it’s still not too late.
Taxing entities wishing to effectuate economies of scale can join together in a joint purchasing program. Instead of a village going out to bid for 50 desks unilaterally, it can bid with 10 other jurisdictions where 500 desks will be purchased. Higher volume equals lower costs. Governments can reach out to each other or, at no cost, work through a nonprofit such as the Center for Cost Effective Government (of which I am executive director), that can inform a district of the prospective bid intentions of other jurisdictions. Remind your local government it still has time.
More transparency needed in Suffolk
Something historic happened at the Suffolk Legislature’s organizational day this year. The Republican minority proposed resolutions to reform the secretive nature of the legislature’s budget process. Unfortunately, the Democratic majority stifled the reform.
While the executive’s budget is submitted in late September, giving the Legislature and the public almost two months of review, the Legislature unveils its amendments the day after election, giving the public, and most legislators, just a few hours to pore over hundreds of pages of fine print. Hidden in that voluminous mess are line items of pork that often increase spending by millions of dollars.
Worse yet, the public never gets to know which legislator proposed the spending addition. It’s all combined into one big omnibus bill. Moreover, there is no debate on the worthiness of any of the additions. They all get voted up or down in a single vote. As county executive, I once submitted a tax-freeze budget that legislators claimed to support before election, only to have them turn around the day after the election and pass a tax increase.
Legis. Tom Cilmi has introduced legislation calling for the budget sessions to be open to the public. Cilmi rightly believes these votes must be cast before election and legislators should be required to place their names on any spending additions they propose. Additionally, no votes should take place prior to the legislators and the public having at least several days to review and comment on the additions.