Questionable Use of Millions of Our Tax Dollars
We recently questioned why another local newspaper spent 4 weeks investigating $1300 in expenses. These are some expenses and other uses of public money that we feel are important for tax payers to know more about. We are investigating several of them and we encourage other media and tax payers to do the same.
Had Stu Besen been re-elected in 2009, he would have been eligible for full medical coverage for life. He lost that re-election. The Town Board appointed him to a part time position making $50,000 per year. This appointment makes him eligible for full medical coverage for life at the end of this year. Based on his age and life expectancy, this medical coverage will cost Huntington taxpayers about $1 million.
It is our understanding that the actual cost of the ice skating rink is significantly more than the estimate. We are told that the Town budgeted $15 million and we have been told that the actual cost was more like $21 million. All this money, and the building is not finished and the Towns Department of General Services is still doing work there. We are currently investigating. More FOIL requests.
Don Pius was paid $765,000 for two dilapidated houses on Columbia Street in Huntington Station. He was also given $30,000 prior to 2003 by the CDA from a fund that is supposed to be used for homeowners to make vital repairs that they cannot afford. Included are things like a dangerous roof, heating system, etc. We have FOIL’ed the years 2003 – 2011 to find out if any other non-owner occupied homes have been given money from this fund.
We would like to know where all the Environmental Open Space and Parks Act (EOSPA) went. On November 3, 1998 the voters of the Town of Huntington approved the establishment of the Environmental Open Space and Park Fund by an overwhelming 72% margin. The first tax revenues allocated to the program were available for use in spring of 1999. The initiative is a 10-year $15 million program, generating $1.5 million per year ($1 million for open space acquisition and $0.5 million for park improvements). Huntington voters approved a second $30 million 10-year initiative in 2003 ($20 million for open space acquisition, $7 million for park improvements and $3 million for neighborhood enhancements). We would like to see an accounting of these funds.
The Town Board has transferred money from various special district funds to the general fund. This in effect hides tax increases. There are some examples (the page numbers indicate the page of the 2012 Town of Huntington Preliminary Budget they are found on):
- Interfund Transfers Accounted for $13,440,782 in 2010 (2012 Preliminary Budget pg. 32) and the Budgeted Interfund Transfer amount in the 2010 Adopted Budget is $5,609,568 (2010 Adopted Budget pg. 3) That’s about an $8 million difference. Did $8 million fall out of a tree?
- Mortgage Tax Revenue Actual 2010: $6,650,672 Modified Budget 2011 $6,400,000 Projected 2011 $7,600,000 Budget 2012 $7,500,000 17.2% (pg 42). So does anyone at Town Hall read the newspapers or watch TV. The Budget expects that revenue from Mortgage Tax is going to increase next year by 17% with a flat or declining housing market.
- Transfer from Huntington Sewer District $731,646 (pg. 202)
- Transfer from Huntington Sewer District Waste Water Disposal $141,194 (pg. 210)
- Transfer from Dix Hills Water District $667,445 (pg. 214)
- Transfer from Street Lighting $475,748 (pg. 190)
- Transfer from Refuse $1,976,451 (pg. 36)
There are many other examples such as those provided above. If the Long Islander is finished investigating the $1300 maybe they can help us track down where the the millions of dollars noted above are going. Why is the Town taking almost $900,000 out of the Huntington Sewer District? Shouldn’t this money be dedicated to the sewer district. The same goes for the residents who reside in Dix Hills Water District to the tune of over $650,000. Almost $2 million form the Refuse District. What is this money used for?
One thing that we took away from this cursory look at the budget is that we should be paying more attention to it. We should ask more questions as this is a substantial amount of money and a lot of bad things could happen to it if nobody pays attention.