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.

03/13/15 11:31am
03/13/2015 11:31 AM
More than 350 people packed the LTV Studios in Wainscott Thursday evening. (Credit: Ambrose Clancy)

More than 350 people packed the LTV Studios in Wainscott Thursday evening. (Credit: Ambrose Clancy)

A public hearing Thursday evening debating the question of restricting aircraft flights over the East End took almost four hours with 70 speakers trooping to the podium.

More than 350 people attended the East Hampton Town Board meeting in a TV studio in Wainscott to air out the pros and cons of proposed local legislation, which, if enacted, would dramatically curb flights into and out of East Hampton Airport. (more…)

12/23/14 8:00am
12/23/2014 8:00 AM
A six-mile stretch of Main Road could be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The corridor includes Aquebogue’s Old Steeple Church, built in 1862 and designed by a farmer with no architectural experience, as well as Aquebogue Cemetery, which dates back to 1755 and contains the graves of numerous Revolutionary War soldiers. (Credit: Andrew Lepre)

A six-mile stretch of Main Road was proposed to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Credit: Andrew Lepre)

Two years ago, the landmarks preservation commissions in Riverhead and Southold towns launched a plan to create a historic district along a six-mile stretch of Main Road from Aquebogue to Laurel. (more…)

10/23/14 3:32pm
10/23/2014 3:32 PM
A six-mile stretch of Main Road is being pitched for an historic district. (Credit: Andrew Lepre)

A six-mile stretch of Main Road is being pitched for an historic district. (Credit: Andrew Lepre)

The National Register Historic District proposed for Main Road in Aquebogue, Jamesport and Laurel has already been rejected by the Riverhead Town Board — and it appears to be one heading that way with the Southold Town Board as well.

“The Town Board had decided that the fate of the proposed district in Southold would be left to the will of the property owners who own land included in the proposed district,” Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said. “We have had 19 owners raise objections and only four show support. Southold cannot support the proposed district moving forward based on those figures.” (more…)

09/02/14 2:49pm

east-end-helicopter-noise-long-island11

Before last week’s packed public aircraft noise meeting in Wainscott, a smaller group of public officials met with representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration in Riverhead.

As with previous encounters with the FAA, nothing much was accomplished, according to those who attended the meeting.  (more…)

08/14/14 1:00pm
More than 200 North Fork residents upset by helicopter noise over their homes turned out Monday night for a forum in Southold. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

More than 200 North Fork residents upset by helicopter noise over their homes turned out Monday night for a forum in Southold. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

Residents from three East End communities voted with their feet Monday and Tuesday, when more than 500 people attended three public meetings to stop low-flying aircraft from buzzing over their homes.

In Southold Monday night, 200 people chastised Federal Aviation Administration officials about the barrage of noise this summer — up more than 40 percent over last year, according to several reports. On Tuesday afternoon, the Shelter Island Town Board held a standing-room-only work session to hear audience members complain bitterly about the racket they’ve been forced to endure.  (more…)