Wed, 13 Oct 2010

Abrahams objects to shifting tax burden to school districts - Newsday

Nassau committees approve tax refund plan
Originally published: October 13, 2010 9:16 PM
Updated: October 13, 2010 9:40 PM

Legislation that would force school districts and local governments to pay their share of property tax refunds, about $80 million a year, was passed through committees of the Nassau County Legislature Wednesday despite opposition from school officials and Democrats.

The Republican presiding officer, Peter Schmitt of Massapequa, said the committees were approving the refund plan and several other budget-related items at the request of County Executive Edward Mangano, also a Republican, and would take further public comment at a meeting of the full legislature on Monday.

But Democrats said the change, when it takes effect in two years, would force schools to increase taxes or cut programs without any savings to either taxpayers or the taxing jurisdictions. A spokesman said Mangano would work with schools and others to find savings that would not impact taxpayers.

Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) said there would be no need for the legislation if Mangano simply fixed the broken property tax assessment system, as he had promised during his campaign last fall.

School board officials had testified that they are highly dependent on property tax revenue and that when the county sought authority in 1938 to assume assessment duties from the towns, it promised to make good on refunds.

The legislative meeting was marked by sharp disputes between Schmitt, members of the Democratic minority, and leaders of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, who wanted to know why Schmitt was holding up $131,000 in funding for a counseling program, that, in turn, would jeopardize the entire $3 million state-administered grant this year for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

Schmitt refused to tell the Democrats or Planned Parenthood his objections, but told Newsday he was waiting for the county Health Department to explain why it has not awarded the $131,000 contract to Nassau University Medical Center, which had also made a proposal.

"I have never been in the company of such a rude individual," Planned Parenthood president JoAnn Smith told Schmitt when he ruled her out of order for attempting to testify about the item, which he has refused to put on the agenda.

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