07/11/15 5:59am
07/11/2015 5:59 AM

In the four years since New York State adopted the 2 percent property tax cap, we’ve weighed in on its success from time to time.

Mostly, it was to say it wouldn’t be — or hasn’t been — at all successful.

Since the cap was enacted, it’s been the position of this editorial board that it’s little more than a political gimmick — a way for Albany lawmakers to say they’re doing their part to keep the cost of living down for the general public that elects them.

Our biggest issue with the legislation remains that it tells schools and other local municipalities to limit their spending an arbitrary amount while doing nothing to provide relief from the mandates the state imposes on them.

The bill also fails to consider existing contracts. It appeared to us, we wrote in a Sept. 22, 2011, editorial, that Albany was patting itself on the back for a law that tells local municipalities what to do but offers no guidance about how to get there.

“How do we meet that requirement?” we opined on behalf of local governments. “Hey, that’s your problem.”

In May 2013, we took a look at school district spending to see if it had, in fact, decreased in the first two budgets since the tax cap was enacted. We found it had not. Overall spending increased $19.2 million in those two years in the seven North Fork school districts — nearly double the $10.2 million combined spending hike in the two years prior.

At the time, Albany lawmakers defended the cap, saying school spending would have gone up even more in those two years if the law was not in place.

So when we learned late last month that state legislators had extended the cap another four years, we decided to once again take a look at how effective the cap has been. This time around, the results were different.

As you’ll see here, reporter Tim Gannon learned that the tax warrants — the total amount of money collected in property taxes — in both North Fork towns have increased at a much slower rate in the past four years than they did in the four years before the cap was approved. The same can be said for the tax levies in most local school districts.

The need for mandate relief in Albany still exists, but perhaps these numbers demonstrate that the tax cap has had a positive impact. And although we’re constantly reminded of how it causes constraints that will lead to cuts in our schools, that threat existed long before the cap <\h>— and our schools are, for the most part, still offering many of the same programs to our students.

A 2 percent tax cap will never solve our property tax issues, but the intention behind it was never that ambitious. If it forces local governments to live a little more within their means — like the rest of us — it should remain in place.

It may be a political gimmick, but it’s one that seems to be saving us a little coin.

06/23/15 2:32pm
06/23/2015 2:32 PM
The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the Bay. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

The view from Route 105 bridge at Indian Island golf course as the Peconic River leads into the bay. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Legislation is awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature that would permit all five East End towns to use up to 20 percent of its Community Preservation Fund dollars for water quality improvement projects. (more…)

04/09/15 10:00am
04/09/2015 10:00 AM

Thumbs upFARMLAND PRESERVATION

A big thumbs up to the state’s decision to give its Farmland Protection Program a $35 million boost, bringing the program’s budget up to $177 million for 2015-16. Like repairs to roads, bridges and other infrastructure, preserving farms is a sound investment — and much less speculative than pricey economic development “pet” projects. The farmland program, which was understandably slashed in half during the recession in 2008, is now back to full health and monies will continue to be available for towns to use to protect farms. Although most of the money will go upstate, it’s in the interest of agricultural communities statewide to remain healthy, forward-thinking and, most of all, intact for generations down the road.

(more…)

04/06/15 8:00am
04/06/2015 8:00 AM
The Riverhead Town sewer plant off Riverside Drive. (Credit: Paul Squire file photo)

The Riverhead Town sewer plant discharges into Peconic Bay (Credit: Paul Squire file photo)

Several million dollars in the state’s newly passed $142 billion budget has been allocated to fund water quality initiatives across New York State, including two projects on Long Island.

Here is a breakdown of water quality initiatives supported in the 2015-16 state spending plan:

NITROGEN MITIGATION

What’s going on?

The state budget includes $5 million in funding to create The Long Island Nitrogen Mitigation Plan, a comprehensive strategy for mitigating nitrogen pollution in Suffolk and Nassau county waterways.

Why is it needed? (more…)

02/27/15 8:33pm
02/27/2015 8:33 PM
Riverhead senior Ed Matyka wrestles Peter Pappas of Plainview in the first round Friday of the state championship. (Credit: Paul Wager)

Riverhead senior Ed Matyka wrestles Peter Pappas of Plainview in the first round Friday of the state championship. (Credit: Paul Wager)

There will be no state champion for Shoreham-Wading River this season. But the Wildcats still have a chance for a memorable finish.

All three Shoreham wrestlers advanced to the second day of the New York State Wrestling Championships Friday at Times Union Center in Albany. Riverhead senior Ed Matyka won a pair of matches as well to advance. (more…)

02/26/15 2:00pm
02/26/2015 2:00 PM
The view inside Times Union Center for the 2013 state tournament. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister, file)

The view inside Times Union Center for the 2013 state tournament. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister, file)

Right around the time I spotted a condom on the bathroom floor of my shady motel room, I began to seriously question the wisdom behind driving to Albany in a snowstorm.

This couldn’t possibly be worth it, I thought.

It was February 2010. For the fourth straight year, I was bound for the New York State Wrestling Championships, a dizzying two-day marathon of hundreds of matches contested across eight mats on the Times Union Center floor.  (more…)

02/19/15 5:00pm
02/19/2015 5:00 PM
Shoreham-Wading River senior James Szymanski (yellow singlet) will wrestle for the first time in the state tournament after receiving an at-large bid this week. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

Shoreham-Wading River senior James Szymanski (yellow singlet) will wrestle for the first time in the state tournament after receiving an at-large bid this week. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

James Szymanski spent the nearly two weeks in between the Section XI Championships and the state tournament last year training with all the wrestlers competing for Suffolk County. (more…)

02/06/15 12:00pm
02/06/2015 12:00 PM

state leadersAlbany is in need of serious reform. It’s been known for years, even decades, and is obvious to anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to our state government.

There appeared to be hope with the 2010 election of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ran on a reform agenda. But he ended up shutting down his own highly touted investigative body, the Moreland Commission, when its members began to hone in on the root of most problems in Albany: outside money earned by lawmakers, and specifically lawyers who have long claimed they couldn’t disclose details of their work — including their clients — because that would be a breach of lawyer-client privilege. (more…)