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Panarites: Northport Facing 'Financial Tsunami'; Time to Make Hard Choices

Former Mayor Peter Panarites is challenging the current village board's decision to charge residents and business owners a sewer rental fee retroactively.

Editor, Northport Patch:

Village residents attending the Feb. 1 Northport Village Board meeting grew restless as the details of the newly enacted sewage fee, unanimously  adopted as of Aug. 3, 2010 came up for discussion. 

Mayor’s George Doll’s Board of Trustees, spearheaded by Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin, Commissioner of Finance, initiated this legislation so as to raise $200,000 to finance the sewage plant. 

They call it a “fee,” but in essence it’s a tax which residents still have to dig deep into their pockets to come up with on a month’s notice.

Residents on the sewage line face having to pay from $100 to $1,000, while business owners have to ante up anywhere from $1,000 to $8,500 dollars. 

This will not only be burdensome to homeowners but will also have a devastating impact on businesses, which will likely lead to more shops closing on Main Street, making Northport a virtual ghost town.  I say this because when you add this year’s 6% Village tax increase into the “fee,” business owners will face a 25% to 100% total tax increase this year.

Quite frankly, the Village Board appears to be short of cash and is looking for any alternative means of securing funds; however, in their haste to come up with something, Mr. Tobin and the board proposed the current law.  The result is that Mayor Doll’s Board has created a serious problem, in that bills mailed on Jan. 25,  stated the fee was for a period from September 2009 through June 2010, but the law was adopted as of August 3, 2010. 

Mayor Doll should have known that you cannot charge a fee retroactively. Local business owners, two of whom include former village mayors, [Panarites and Nolan & Taylor-Howe owner Peter Nolan are both former mayors of Northport Village] have met and will challenge this in the supreme court.  If and when the village loses the lawsuit, they will be faced with a $200,000 shortfall for the 2011-2012 budget.

These are difficult financial times, not only for homeowners but for small businesses on Main Street as well. The Village Board should not increase taxes but rather look for ways to cap and reduce spending. 

Mr. Tobin’s solution is to create bonds, which is not a viable solution since that only leads to higher taxes in the future.   

Even though I agree with the board that health insurance costs and existing contractual obligations have contributed to the shortfall, I believe that there are other areas where our board could have been more prudent in spending our tax dollars. 

For example, the Superintendent of Public Works [Joe Correia] retired last year and the Village Board hired a replacement [Gene Guido]. It thereafter rehired the retiree as a consultant at a cost to the taxpayer of approximately $700 per week.

In addition, poor negotiations with unions will have a great impact on future budgeting and will cause substantial tax increases in the future. Case in Point: the thirteen-year Police Union contract, which will increase taxes substantially over the next decade.

Good times or bad, just get ready. A financial tsunami is on the horizon and without strong leaders to depend on, the result could be devastating for us all.

Sincerely,

Pete Panarites

Edward J. Mayer February 11, 2011 at 03:41 PM
Editor Northport Patch: GreatWeb site, Being a former Northport home owner for quite a few years I still miss and love the village, When I come back there I do feel a bit sad .But just could not afford to pay the TAX'S anymore, Suffolk,Huntington, Northport,New York,Plus Fee's.The pubic sector nickel and dimes to no end.God Bless all my friends that I made through the years.Eddie Mayer Vinton,Virginia.
Kelly Campbell February 11, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Edward. So many people say that it's becoming harder and harder to simply survive in the village as both a homeowner or a business owner, particularly having to pay both the Town of Huntington property taxes as well. From your comment, I gather it's not necessarily a new thing.
NOTA February 16, 2011 at 04:40 AM
The sewer special assessment is a little over $200K That could be achieved by merely cutting some police overtime. Or by cutting some school administative budget numbers. God forbid, cut the police force by one, or the school administration by one. Any of these would provide the $200K and end this SEWER treatment discusion which already has resulted in $10K for special accounting software to the 'firm' already doing Northport accounting. Think about it. END THE SEWER TREATMENT - NOT OF WATER, BUT OF ITS CITIZENS

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