Letter: One Solution To High County Taxes

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We are all deeply concerned about high property taxes. After getting my assessment notice, I attended the hearing at the county seat on Dec. 12, 2018. There were hundreds of fellow county residents bemoaning high assessments and higher taxes. Residents there given time to speak talked about unsalable homes in Sands Point, empty store fronts and the lack of affordability for the elderly. All these concerns, and many more, are due to excessively high property taxes. They are unaffordable and on an unsustainable upward trajectory.

I may be in a position to offer a somewhat unique viewpoint. My father, who passed three years ago, was a retired NYC detective. Most of his friends, our friends, were police. In addition, most of my time in my finance career was in municipal bonds. I have read countless research reports about hundreds of municipal credits. What I learned most was fiscal accountability. In short, I understand the interests of the police and civic employees and the interests of all residents of Nassau County.

This brings me to my final point. In 2011, I cut out an article from the Wall Street Journal titled, “High Police Pay Fuels Nassau’s Squeeze.” I saved the article, and believe that local papers should reprint it. It is very balanced, and quotes ”think tanks” and professors from various local colleges, including Hofstra University and John Jay College. In summation, it states that high police pay is due to the “cozy relationship between elected officials and police unions.” When discussing a Nassau County police pay raise back in April of 2011, it quotes Jon Shane of John Jay College of Criminal Justice stating, “How can you lock yourself in and how is that in the public interest?” Shane is basically saying that high police pay, and excessive benefits, are not in the public’s interest.

No one is against any civic employee; police, teacher or administrator living well. But we cannot pay for retirement packages or pensions any longer. Public pension spending is not a looming fiscal disaster; it is upon us now. This WSJ article states that the annual compensation of a police officer in Nassau County is $182,000, of which approximately $70,000 is benefits. But those benefits afforded the police are not the services for Nassau County. Excessive pay/benefits are a wealth transfer from education spending for our children, to retirement accounts of “retired” civic employees. Excessive pay/benefits are a wealth transfer from young family’s saving for a better home, to “retired” civic employees.

Excessive pay/benefits are a wealth transfer from elderly on a fixed income, to “retired” civic employees. The basic conclusion of the WSJ article is that our taxes are excessive, perhaps by close to 40 percent, because of excessive pay and benefits. Current pension math and its future obligations is out of line with economic reality. No one represented the will of the taxpayer when these alleged “agreements” were bound.

We live in a democratic, capitalistic society. The funding for public service comes from the private sector. The funding for retirement should not. No one represented the interests of the taxpayer at the bargaining table for public sector employees. There is an inherent conflict of interest. Those same politicians seek to appease a voting bloc, not get the best service at the best price for taxpayers. I call upon our elected officials to act in the public interest, and fashion into law self-funded retirement accounts. All civic employees should fund their own benefits via 401k plans. Residents pay for service, not pensions. Our property taxes do not reflect the reason of its residents. They need to go down, not up. Please enact into law self-funded benefits.

—William Hannan


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