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Nassau County Legislature Unanimously Approves ‘Good Government’ Reforms

The Nassau County Legislature has unanimously voted to establish an office of the Inspector General, adding yet another layer of transparency to Nassau County government. The measure, which was the result of reconciliation of versions of the legislation introduced by the Republican majority and Democratic minority caucuses, was adopted at the final meeting of the Legislature’s 11th Term which ended on December 31st.

 

The Inspector General will have sweeping powers to investigate corruption, waste and fraud in Nassau County government operations. The position will also have the authority to subpoena witnesses during the course of any investigations.

 

In addition to creating the Inspector General position, the Legislature also passed a law limiting the amount of time a commissioner of a department can serve as an “acting commissioner.” Currently, a commissioner may be appointed by the County Executive with a temporary “acting” title. The use of “acting” title interfered with the oversight obligation of the Legislature.

 

Under the new law, the County Executive must forward the appointment of a commissioner to the County Legislature within six-months of the appointment for a confirmation vote, absent some extenuating circumstances.

 

“These initiatives are the latest in a series of measures passed by the Legislature to ensure that Nassau County government is the most transparent and accountable in New York State,” said Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello.

 

Legislator Steve Rhoads, a co-sponsor of both initiatives, was excited by the progress. “Good government shouldn’t just be a slogan candidates use at campaign time”, said Legislator Rhoads, “it is a duty which every elected official owes to their constituents.” “Independent oversight through an Inspector General together with true legislative oversight through the confirmation of executive appointments brings us closer to that goal”, he concluded.

 

These measures were added to the list of comprehensive reforms sponsored by Legislator Rhoads and the Republican majority which became law during the Legislature’s 11th Term, including the banning of convicted felons from holding County elected or appointed office; the addition of a Director of Procurement Compliance; the strengthening of the powers of the County’s Board of Ethics and Commissioner of Investigations and an overhaul of the County’s contracting and procurement process to require additional disclosures of lobbyist activities; campaign contributions to elected officials and an expansion of legislative oversight by mandating legislative review to all County contracts with a value in excess of $1,000.

 

“For as long as the people of the 19th Legislative District allow me to serve, I will strive to make County government more open, more transparent and more accountable to them”, said Legislator Rhoads.

 

Visit Legislator Rhoads’ webpage

Senators Hannon, O’Mara Introduce ‘Drug Take Back Act’ to Prevent Opioid Abuse, Protect Water Supplies

New Measure Holds Drug Manufacturers Responsible for the Proper Disposal and Collection of Their Products

 

Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) and Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) today announced the introduction of legislation to enact the “Drug Take Back Act”. The measure (S7354) helps combat the abuse of prescription drugs and prevents unused drugs from contaminating water supplies by establishing a statewide pharmaceutical drug take back program for their safe disposal.

 

Senator Kemp Hannon, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, “New York, like the rest of the nation, continues to struggle with the opioid addiction crisis. Despite our best efforts to stem the tide of opioid related deaths, the number of deaths continue to rise. Due to the fact that some drug addictions are first supplied by leftover medication a family member or friend did not use, cutting off that supply is essential.”

 

Senator O’Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “It’s incredibly important to do anything and everything we can to complement and support the efforts of local law enforcement and other community leaders to combat prescription drug abuse. These efforts include National Prescription Drug Take Back Days and other initiatives like this one to facilitate the collection, and safe and responsible disposal of unused medications. This proposal to greatly expand the number of permanent, locally based drop-off locations would be a very positive, cost-effective addition to the state’s ongoing, overall strategy to protect our communities and local environments.”

 

The legislation would create a unified, statewide drug take back program that will save government and taxpayer money and reduce medication misuse. In addition, the program would protect New York State’s water supplies by preventing drugs from being improperly disposed of by flushing or other means that result in contamination of water bodies and negatively impact aquatic life. Last year, New York made a historic investment in improving and protecting our water and keeping drugs out of water supplies is another important and necessary step.

 

The bill makes pharmaceutical manufacturers responsible for all costs of the take back program, ranging from public education and awareness to collection, transport, and destruction. The Act further requires chain pharmacies and mail-order pharmacies to provide consumers with on-site collection, prepaid mail-back envelopes, or other DEA-approved methods to encourage safe drug disposal.

 

“This legislation will hold manufacturers rather than consumers financially responsible for safely managing the disposal of their products,” stated Senator Hannon. “With chain pharmacies providing for collection, we will be able to reach more consumers, ensuring a successful program.”

 

The legislation is currently on the agenda for this week’s scheduled Senate Health Committee meeting.

 

Visit Legislator Hannon’s webpage

Saladino, Johnson Announce Free February Senior Citizen Yoga Classes

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino and Councilwoman Michele Johnson announced that the Town will host new, free yoga classes for senior citizens on Thursdays during the month of February at the Town’s Glen Head Community Center, located at 200 Glen Head Road, in Glen Head.

 

“The Town’s Senior Division of our Department of Community and Youth Services offers our residents many great activities, spread out at various Town facilities throughout the year,” Supervisor Saladino said. “I invite our senior residents to participate in this new yoga class for seniors, as staying active is one of the most important things our senior community can do to keep healthy.”

 

The free yoga class for seniors will be held on Thursdays in February at the Glen Head Community Center, beginning February 1st, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information on the Senior Yoga Class or other senior citizen programs, please call the Division of Senior Citizens Services at (516) 797-7939.

 

Visit the Town of Oyster Bay website

Montesano Announces Passage of Bill to Provide Identification Cards to Individuals with Disabilities

Assemblyman Michael Montesano is pleased to announce passage of a bill (A.00249-C) he co-sponsored which would establish the use of identification cards for individuals with developmental disabilities. Individuals or their guardians have the option of obtaining a card containing important information on the individual’s developmental disability, which could be essential in assisting first responders and others during interactions such as emergencies.

 

“There is no black or white way to interact with an individual with a developmental disability,” said Montesano. “Every person is unique and it is important to recognize that when it comes to assisting an individual with a disability, particularly in emergency situations. This is a step in the right direction toward improving the lives of individuals with disabilities and educating the public on how to better assist them should the need arise. Additionally, I am so excited to have this bill pass early in the 2018 Legislative Session and hope we can continue to move forward to get important bills passed in a quick and efficient manner.”

 

Visit Assemblyman Montesano’s webpage

Saladino: Town Now Hiring Part-Time Sanitation Workers

Residents Invited To Apply for New Employment Opportunities

 

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino today announced today that the Town is seeking 40 part-time sanitation workers to assist with and help streamline single stream recycling operations.

 

“The Town of Oyster Bay is proud to announce 40 new job opportunities for residents seeking part-time sanitation work,” said Supervisor Saladino. “The Town’s new single stream recycling program, launched in late-October, has already proven to be a resounding success, easing the burden of sorting garbage, allowing the Town to be more environmentally-friendly, and generating significant revenue for taxpayers. ”

 

Part-time sanitation employees will earn $15 an hour, working side-by-side with the Town’s full-time sanitation workers during their normal routes and work hours. The Town is seeking individuals who can work during regularly scheduled pick-up days (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday) and hours of operation (scheduled 10 hour work days, with task completion).

 

For more information regarding a part-time sanitation position, please call the Town of Oyster Bay’s Department of Public Works at (516) 797-5124 and an application will be mailed to interested individuals.

 

Visit the Town of Oyster Bay website

Senator Phillips Seeks Reimbursement for Local Municipalities for Costs Incurred During Executive Order

Municipalities Faced With Excess Costs Due To Rush By Residents To Prepay 2018 Property Taxes Before New Federal Tax Guidelines Took Effect On January 1st

 

Senator Elaine Phillips joined Assemblyman Ed Ra and Town of Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Donald Clavin to urge the Governor to reimburse local municipalities for excess costs accumulated while complying with an Executive Order allowing residents to prepay 2018 property taxes before January 1 deadline.

 

“While I commend the Governor on taking action to protect our hard-working taxpayers, local municipalities worked tirelessly to assist residents with prepaying their taxes before the new federal tax code took effect, and they should not be responsible for the excess costs accumulated due to the Executive Order,” Senator Elaine Phillips said. “I am confident we can find common ground to repay our local municipalities for the good deed they did for Long Island’s hardworking taxpayers. Taxpayers should not have to defray the cost, and this measure is the least we can do for local government.”

 

The Governor signed an Executive Order on December 22, directing local towns to accept the prepayment of 2018 property taxes. Town of Hempstead’s Receiver of Taxes, Donald Clavin, estimates that his office could incur excess costs of over $100,000. “Excess costs” are defined as costs beyond ordinary operating expenses during typical tax collections

 

Senator Phillips and Assemblyman Ra are currently drafting legislation that would provide reimbursements to those local governments which experienced excess costs as a result of the Executive Order.

 

“I want to thank Senator Phillips and Assemblyman Ra for stepping up to help local governments and area taxpayers as we all work to cope with the impact of the new federal tax code,” Clavin said. “By sponsoring legislation that would reimburse towns and other local governments for the excess costs of complying with the Governor’s Executive Order on the prepayment of 2018 property taxes, the impact of the costs to local governments and taxpayers can be minimized.”

 

“Hempstead Town and other municipalities have been slammed with excess costs in order to help taxpayers cope with the impact of the new federal tax code,” Ra said. “The least that our state can do is to help mitigate the burden that would otherwise be fully borne by localities and their taxpayers.”

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Clavin Helps Residents Who Prepaid 2018 Property Taxes Avoid Getting Double Billed by Their Mortgage Company

Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin is urging residents who prepaid their 2018 property taxes and normally pay through mortgage escrow accounts to contact their mortgage servicer immediately to assure that their accounts are reconciled and up to date to reflect the most recent tax payments. Most importantly, Clavin pressed homeowners to act in order to make sure that they are not double billed or impacted by costly bank errors.

 

The Receiver explained that residents who notify their mortgage providers about their tax prepayment will learn how to ensure that their accounts and monthly payments are accurate and up to date, while protecting themselves from the prospect of being overbilled or making unnecessary payments.

 

“If you contact your mortgage provider as soon as possible to inform them of your tax prepayment, you’re doing yourself a favor by preventing potential issues such as double billing or other errors related to your account,” Clavin said. “By taking the initiative to reconcile your account with your financial institution, you will save yourself headaches down the road.”

 

Nearly 10,000 residents rushed to the Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes office to prepay their property taxes before December 31, 2017. When the Governor’s Executive Order – issued the Friday before Christmas Day – directed localities to accommodate the prepayment of 2018 property taxes, taxpayers had very little time to act. The Governor’s Order was issued in response to the overhaul of the federal tax code, which imposes a $10,000 cap on the deduction of property taxes and other expenses starting in 2018. By prepaying April 2018 school taxes and/or 2018 general taxes by December 31, 2017, people could potentially deduct the payments from their 2017 tax returns (property owners must meet eligibility requirements).

 

Clavin responded to the Governor’s Order by opening the office for extended and weekend hours through December 31st. The Receiver continually urged residents to consult with their tax professionals before prepaying taxes. Clavin also encouraged taxpayers with mortgage escrow accounts to inform their banks or financial institutions about the prepayment, and is now urging them to act immediately if they have not yet done so.

 

For residents who do contact their mortgage servicers, Clavin urges them to have their tax payment receipts handy, along with a recent mortgage statement if available. The Receiver also noted that each bank or financial institution will differ in their verification methods, likely requesting a copy of your tax payment receipt. Once banks verify tax prepayments, they may deal with the issue in a variety of ways, which can include an adjustment of monthly payments or escrow accounts, depending on the financial institution.

 

“Be sure to have your tax receipt and mortgage documentation on hand when you call to prevent any misunderstanding or delays,” Clavin added. “Do not rely on the advice of friends or family, you must speak with your mortgage servicer directly because they all have different standards and regulations.”

 

Clavin offered valuable information for homeowners who experience difficulty in dealing with their bank or mortgage holder. Specifically, those residents who are not satisfied with their lender’s efforts with respect to reconciling property tax prepayments with monthly mortgage amounts or escrow accounts, should contact the New York State Department of Financial Services at (800) 342-3736. The department’s website can be found at www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/fileacomplaint.htm.

 

The Receiver also offered a helpful checklist for those homeowners who prepaid their 2018 property taxes and want to reconcile accounts with their mortgage holder:

 

Call your bank NOW!

Have your property tax receipt handy.

Have a recent mortgage statement in hand when calling your bank.

Have your bank respond in writing to your inquiry so you have a permanent record.

Reconcile your prepayment with bank records to ensure accuracy.

Have concerns? Call the NYS Department of Financial Services at (800) 342-3736.

 

Those who prepaid their taxes in late December were issued a temporary tax receipt, and should be receiving a regular receipt via mail in the coming days and weeks. While the Receiver of Taxes Office cannot answer questions related to mortgages or escrow payments, the staff is available to assist regarding your payment of school and general taxes by calling (516) 538-1500 or by visiting the tax office (200 North Franklin Street, Hempstead) during regular business hours (Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.).

 

“It would be fair to assume that your bank will not be contacting you anytime soon other than to sell you a product or service, and the last thing I want to see is a taxpayer struggling to pay bills due to a bank’s clerical errors or a lack of communication,” Clavin said. “Make a New Year’s resolution and save some stress by picking up a phone with your tax receipt in hand and contact your mortgage provider today.”

 

Visit the Town of Hempstead website

Senator Phillips Joins Senate Majority to Unveil 2018 Affordability Agenda

Advances First Piece of “Blueprint for a Stronger New York”; Puts Focus on Initiatives That Help More Families and Seniors Afford To Stay and Thrive In Their Communities

 

Senator Elaine Phillips joined her Senate Republican colleagues to unveil a broad-based affordability agenda designed to help individuals, families, and seniors continue to live, work, and succeed in New York. Initiatives advanced this year by the Senate will reduce the excessively high taxes and other factors that make it difficult to live, raise a family, own a home, or retire in New York.

 

“The high cost of living on Long Island and throughout the state is forcing thousands of working-class families, young entrepreneurs and small business owners to move to other parts of the country because it is too difficult to make ends meet,” Senator Elaine Phillips said. “My Republican colleagues and I are focused on making New York more affordable for hardworking taxpayers by delivering $4.2 billion in middle-class income tax cuts, providing millions of dollars in tax relief and ensuring fiscal responsibility in government. New York is the Empire State and it is time we retain that status by creating new economic opportunities for all New Yorkers.”

 

The Senate is advancing a three-pronged “Blueprint for a Stronger New York” that focuses on making the state less costly and more attractive for hardworking New Yorkers. When combined together, the Senate’s Affordability, Opportunity, and Security agendas comprise a powerful and comprehensive plan to give all New Yorkers the opportunity to succeed.

 

Today’s announcement details the first part: an Affordability Agenda that focuses on broad-based tax relief for families and seniors. The Affordability blueprint includes:

 

  • Lower Income Taxes
  • Lower Property Taxes
  • Lower Energy Taxes
  • Lower Taxes on Retirement
  • Reforms to Control Spending and Prevent Tax Increases

 

Lower Income Taxes

The start of the new year means millions of taxpayers will begin to see significant savings delivered as part of the Senate Majority’s Middle Class Income Tax Cut. Tax relief will ultimately reach $4.2 billion a year and reduce middle class tax rates by 20 percent for employees and tens of thousands of small businesses.

 

The Senate Majority will also advance measures to help all New Yorkers negatively impacted by Federal income tax changes that were recently approved in Washington D.C.

 

Lower Property Taxes For Every Homeowner

New York is one of the highest taxed states in the nation and high property taxes are a key factor in the inability of families and seniors to make ends meet. With the enactment of the Senate Majority’s two-percent property tax cap in 2011, progress has been made in curtailing soaring tax growth, but ongoing adherence to the cap is not guaranteed.

 

Today, the Senate will be acting on legislation that makes the state’s highly successful property tax cap permanent. Since it was enacted, taxpayers have already saved $23 billion and to cement those gains for current and future taxpayers, it must be made permanent this year.

 

In 2018, 2.5 million residents will receive nearly $1 billion in property tax rebate checks – over and above the tax relief already provided by the STAR program. The Senate Majority secured the checks in 2015 and will make it a priority to prevent any diminishing or eliminating of those rebate checks in this year’s state budget.

 

In addition, the Affordability Agenda proposes a 25-percent increase in the size of the current property tax rebate checks. These checks currently provide direct, much-needed relief through checks in the mail to homeowners and increasing their amount will help further ease the local tax burden.

 

Many seniors on fixed incomes face a particularly difficult challenge affording New York’s high taxes. To help alleviate this financial pressure and prevent older New Yorkers from being forced to move to lower-taxing states, the Senate Majority will propose a new freeze on school property taxes at current levels for seniors. In addition, the Senate will go one step further and propose completely eliminating school property taxes for seniors over the next ten years.

 

Lower Energy Taxes – $280 Million in New Tax Relief

New York has some of the highest energy costs in the nation, and state taxes on energy impose a major expense on millions of families and seniors. To provide relief to overburdened taxpayers, the Senate Majority plan would eliminate the two-percent Gross Receipts Tax on utility bills, resulting in $190 million in savings.

 

The energy tax savings would also expand upon the energy savings achieved when the Senate Majority phased out the onerous 18-A energy tax surcharge enacted by New York City Democrats several years ago. Now that the surcharge has been eliminated, the Senate Majority’s Affordability plan would go even further by eliminating the base, underlying 18-A assessment tax and have the $90 million in savings come from the state’s general fund.

 

Lower Taxes on Retirement – $275 Million in New Tax Relief

Each year, thousands of older New Yorkers leave their communities and move to other states because of the taxation of a large portion of retiree pension income. The Senate Majority proposes to help reverse this trend by doubling the current exemption on pension income and save seniors $275 million. This initiative, combined with the property tax reductions proposed above, would make New York more affordable for more seniors.

 

Reforms to Control Spending and Prevent Tax Increases

Later today, the Senate will also be acting on legislation that enacts a permanent two-percent spending cap into state law. For the last seven years, the Senate Majority has held spending within a two-percent cap, saving a cumulative $41 billion. To protect New Yorkers from future tax increases, the state must enact a permanent spending cap to ensure families and businesses can afford to be located in New York for years to come.

 

Similar to last year’s successful rejection of hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes and fees proposed by the Governor, the Senate Majority will advance a 2018-19 budget proposal that includes no new taxes or fees.

 

To further hold the state accountable and prevent unnecessary taxation, the Senate Majority will put forward a measure that requires a supermajority vote on state legislation that increase taxes and address the mandates that drive up local taxes. The Senate will also propose a constitutional amendment to ban unfunded mandates and further pursue property tax relief through the significant reductions of existing mandates.

 

The Senate Majority Record

The Senate Majority has been responsible for the enactment of 85 tax cuts over the past seven years, saving taxpayers $12 billion to date. This includes the lowest middle-class tax rates since 1948, the lowest manufacturing rates since 1917, the lowest corporate rates since 1968, a property tax cap for homeowners, and many more.

 

The Blueprint for a Stronger New York will build on that successful record and provide a sensible approach to lowering taxes and creating better opportunities for all New Yorkers during the 2018 session and upcoming budget negotiations.

 

Visit Senator Phillips’ webpage

Saladino, Town Board Approve Inspector General to Further Enhance Transparency, Integrity & Ethics

Town of Oyster Bay is Now Accepting Resumes

 

Building on earlier initiatives to enhance transparency and ethics, Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino and members of the Town Board today approved a local law to create an Office of Inspector General to oversee all aspects of the Town’s contracting processes. In October 2017, the Town Board took the historic action of being the first local municipality to approve funding for such an office.

 

“To restore the public’s trust in government, the Town Board and I took swift action to install a new, independent Board of Ethics with real and meaningful oversight. We have instituted disclosure requirements for contractors, vendors and high level employees to prevent conflicts of interest and improprieties. A former Federal prosecutor was appointed to serve as Town Attorney and employees – as well as elected officials – have been mandated to attend an ethics training seminar,” stated Supervisor Saladino. “Building upon these initiatives to restore ethics, honesty, integrity and transparency, the Town will hire an Inspector General to administer all aspects of the Town’s contracting processes.”

 

The Inspector General will be charged with standardizing the Town’s purchasing and contract administration; monitoring compliance with all applicable procurement guideline policies, and requirements of federal, state and local laws; providing technical expertise to ensure all contracts, requests for proposals and bid solicitations are posted on the Town’s website, and expanding the Town’s access to municipal and state electronic systems to verify the qualifications and standing of potential contractors.

 

The Inspector General will have the authority to review the records of all Town departments as he or she may deem to be for the best financial interest of the Town, of the accounts, financial methods and financial activities of each department, office or agency of the Town and report to the Supervisor and Town Board the findings therein.

 

Requirements for the position’s consideration include: a Graduate Degree, Juris Doctorate, MBA, Finance Degree or comparable degree from an accredited college or university; minimum of five years’ experience in public or quasi-public sector; and a minimum of three years’ experience as a supervisor of high level public or quasi-public sector staff. Applicants may email their resume to personnel@oysterbay-ny.gov or mail to Vicki Spinelli, Department of Human Resources, 54 Audrey Avenue, Oyster Bay, NY 11771.

 

Visit the Town of Oyster Bay website