Moderator (Massapequa): Good afternoon. Weclome to Senator Fuschillo's virtual question & answer session. You can submit questions at anytime by filling out the form above. Remember to keep refreshing your browser and scrolling to the bottom of the page to see the latest questions and answers. Would you like to say anything before we get started Senator?
Senator Fuschillo (12:30:00 PM): Thank you to everyone who is taking part in this online Q & A. Many people submitted questions ahead of time, so we will post some of those answers first to allow us to get to as many questions as possible. Before we start answering questions, I just want to update you on what is going on in Albany. The Governor recently put forth his executive budget proposal which attempts to address many of the challenges facing New York State in the coming year. Priority number one must be closing the state’s budget deficit without raising taxes. Your family is already overtaxed and facing the challenges caused by the current economy; you should not have to pay more. I'm pleased that the Governor's budget contains no new taxes and includes plans to promote economic development and create jobs. Last year, we closed a $10 billion budget deficit without raising taxes by cutting spending and making government operate more efficiently. That's exactly what we need to do again now. However, I am greatly concerned that the Executive budget proposal shortchanges Long Island schools. While the budget does not increase taxes, it can help further reduce taxes for Long Island homeowners by giving Long Island schools their fair share of state education funding. Now let's take some questions.
Daniel Walker (Amityville): What can be done to reduce property taxes? And what have you done to reduce the burden of property taxes?
Senator Fuschillo (12:31:00 PM): New York State approved a property tax cap last year on school district, local government, and special district spending. Tax levy increases are now capped at either two percent or the annual increase in the consumer price index, whichever is less. School districts cannot go above the cap unless they receive the approval of 60 percent of the voters in the budget vote.
Vito Spada (Farmingdale): How can we bring to Long Island the technical know how; that exists in silicone valley; and attract IT companies to Long Island. We lost many talented engineers when Republic and Grumman and support companies eg. as Airborne Instrument Labs.were cut back. Yet the west coast has long recovered beyond our area? Not to mention the lack of engineering students that are majoring in both mechanical and electrical courses.
Senator Fuschillo (12:32:00 PM): One field where Long Island has already begun to attract high-tech jobs is biotechnology. Several years ago, we created the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park at Farmingdale State College, a research facility which serves as an incubator facility for small and startup biotech companies. The Park also works in partnership with Farmingdale State College to provide internships and scholarships to Farmingdale State students. Last year, we approved a law to expand the park, which is expected to create a total of 787 direct and indirect jobs and an annual payroll of approximately $50 million for the region.
Stephen Weiss (Merrick): Everybody is talking about boosting the economy on Long Island and NYS by building infrastructure but I have not heard anybody suggest to regenerate the original concept of the Seaford Oster Bay Expressway to lead to a Bridge over the LI Sound into New England. This would be a major ongoing boost to the economy olf LI for industry, residential and commercial property as well as government income. I can't understand why this has not proceeded. The cost would be of no consequence compared to the resulting economic boom to the local and government economy. This would far outweigh the development of Nassau Colosieum(which seems to be the only major topic of discussion for development) and the rebuilding of the Tappan Zee(By the way the Oster Bay Bridge would take a huge traffic burden of the Tappan Zee). So my question why don't we build the Oyster Bay/Rye NY Bridge?
Senator Fuschillo (12:33:00 PM): You’re right about the benefits that come with transportation infrastructure projects; they create jobs, promote economic development, and make our roads safer. With so many roads and bridges needing repair, we need to make sure these projects move forward. We also need a public-private partnership law to allow greater flexibility to finance and deliver these projects. The Governor has also proposed a multi-billion dollar economic development agenda which will be funded largely by leveraging private sector funding to upgrade infrastructure. Regarding the Cross Sound Link, there’s a proposal by a private developer to build an underground tunnel which would start at the end of the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway, and go underneath the Long Island sound and end at the I-95/I-287 interchange in Rye. The proposal is still under review.
Michele DeCrescenzo (Seaford): My question is why does LI have so many Superintendents, and other places do not have two or more for each school district? Wantagh has three, Bethpage has 6 I was told,Etc. We are not rich like everyone thinks we are. We cannot afford the high price salaries that they, and the admin. get. This is why we have so many foreclosures, and the burden gets put on the rest of us. Our kids will have to move out of stste. Who mandates their salary? Why do they get to revote after we vote the budget down? I feel like LI is hands up. Your input would be glady appreciated!
Senator Fuschillo (12:34:00 PM): Superintendent salaries are negotiated and approved by your local school board, and they are completely out of control. Governor Cuomo has called for a cap on school superintendent salaries, which would save Long Island taxpayers an estimated $8 million. As the Senate sponsor of the Governor’s legislation, I fully support it. Taxpayers are paying for these salaries and benefits and they can’t afford them anymore. It needs to stop.
Howard Beswick (Roosevelt,NY 11575): When is New York and NJ Both going to get together and abolish the Port authority, they are Killing commerce in both State with outrageous toles and fees ,plus mismanagement of funds collected
Senator Fuschillo (12:35:00 PM): I strongly opposed the Port Authority’s toll increase because the authority should have found more ways to contain costs and find savings internally. Reports from both the State Comptroller’s office and the media have detailed many areas where the Port Authority failed to contain costs and properly manage its finances. There’s currently an ongoing independent audit of the Port Authority’s finances, but that should have been done before raising tolls. I have also reached out to the Chairman of the New Jersey State Senate’s Transportation Committee inviting him to hold a joint public hearing with me examining the Port Authority’s finances.
Alan Chwick (Freeport): Where can one find the changes to the MTA Tax that was just passed? I have not been able to locate the specifics as to who does NOT have to pay this awful tax.
Senator Fuschillo (12:36:00 PM): Thanks for your question Alan. All businesses with a total annual payroll under $1.25 million, as well as self-employed individuals with incomes under $50,000 and all public and non-public schools, will be exempt from the payroll tax under a law we passed in December. Businesses with an annual payroll between $1.25 million and $1.75 million will have their payroll tax rates reduced. The payroll tax is a job killing measure, which I why I voted against it in 2009; this new law is another positive step in the right direction. If you need additional information, you can call my office, 516-882-0630.
Tracey Bowden (Wantagh): How do we get more oversight over school spending? Its seems like schools have an open checkbook and taxes keep going up. It's also very frustrating how they take away sports,arts, things that hurt the kids once they loose a budget. I am sure they can find other cuts in staff and salary. As everyone struggles in this economy you still see educators getting generous salaries, raises and step ups. How do we get more oversight??
Senator Fuschillo (12:37:00 PM): Tracey, thank you for your question. Your local school board, which is elected by the community, is responsible for making financial decisions for your school district, including how money will be appropriated in the school budget and negotiating employee salaries and raises. I encourage you to attend a your local school board meetings and voice your concerns, as school taxes make up the largest portion of your property tax bill. Under the state’s tax cap, school district tax levy increases will be capped at 2 percent or the increase in the consumer price index, whichever is less. The only way school districts can exceed the cap is by gaining approval from 60 percent of the voters in a school budget vote. The State Comptroller’s office also has the authority to audit school district finances.
Cynthia (Bellmore ): Dear Senator Fuschillo, I would like to know why the Town of Hempstead and/or Nassau County have never pursued the rapant instances of homeowners in the local area renting out apartments in their homes that are single family dwellings?
Senator Fuschillo (12:38:00 PM): The Town of Hempstead has a code enforcement division which handles reports of illegal housing. If you know of illegal housing in your area and want the Town to investigate it, call the Town of Hempstead’s code enforcement division at 489-5000.
Michael Goudket (Seaford): Unfunded state mandates are causing havoc with school budgets. They are a major reason for local school tax increases. What is being done to eliminate or reduce unfunded state mandated school expenses?
Senator Fuschillo (12:39:00 PM): Last year, the state legislation delivered $40 million in mandate relief for school districts alone, which was a step in the right direction. Additional mandate relief is a priority of mine in 2012 to help further reduce costs for schools and municipalities and provide additional tax relief for residents, as is fighting to get Long Island schools their fair share of state education aid, which they do not get under the Executive budget proposal. However, it’s important to remember that salaries, fringe benefits, and personal services contracts are among the largest portion of school district expenditures, and those are all negotiated by your local school board.
Larry Carlton (Merrick): Dear Senator, The streets in the Merrick Woods neighborhood are in terrible disrepair. Are you aware of any plans to repave these streets, and if not, who exactly should we contact to further discuss this issue? Thank you.
Senator Fuschillo (12:40:00 PM): Larry, I agree and have spoken to the Town of Hempstead on many occasions. The Town of Hempstead is responsible for maintaining, repairing, and repaving those streets. If you send me your address and phone, along with the names of the streets you’re concerned about, we will reach out to the Town and ask them to contact you. Or if you prefer, you can call them yourself at 516-489-5000.
Moderator (Massapequa): Just a reminder to keep refreshing your browser to see the most updated questions and answers.
Senator Fuschillo (12:40:00 PM): Thank you
Tom (Massapequa): Do you feel it is ethically correct for gov't employees convicted of a felony to collect a pension?
Senator Fuschillo (12:41:00 PM): No Tom, I don't. Public officials who commit felonies in the performance of their duties should have to forfeit their pensions. Tax dollars should not be spent on pensions for public officials who used their office to commit crimes.
Marshall Cohen (Seaford,New York): What's happening to AQUA WATER ? Is it being taken over buy local authorities or being sold to AMERICAN WATER ? American Water has requested a 17-20 % rate increase. When does the HIGHWAY ROBBERY STOP !!!!!! This is insane ! What do you plan to do about this situation.? Sincerely , Marshall & Sandra Cohen
Senator Fuschillo (12:42:00 PM): Marshall, as an Aqua customer myself, I know all too well how much Aqua bills cost and it has to stop. Aqua is currently seeking approval from the State’s Public Service Commission to sell its operations to American Water. Both Aqua and American Water, which are publicly traded companies making profits from our pockets, need to work much harder to lower costs and do more with less. The Water Authority of Southeastern Nassau County, which was organized by the Towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay, is also exploring the costs of a public takeover of Aqua and whether that would lower costs for residents. For more information about their efforts, visit http://www.wasenc.org
harvey stein (merrick): Hello Senator Fuschillo, My question is this; Why do some LIRR tickets expire? ie.: a 10 ride ticket, a one way peak/off peak. The money you used to buy the ticket does not have an expiration date. What happens to the money that ''expires'' with these tickets? Thank You for your time
Senator Fuschillo (12:43:00 PM): Harvey, the LIRR’s current ticket refund policy is unfair and needs to be changed. One-way and round-trip tickets are now only valid for 14 days and riders must pay a $10 service fee to get a refund, which in some cases is more than the ticket itself. The Senate Transportation Committee recently approved legislation I cosponsor to eliminate the refund fee and lengthen the amount of time LIRR tickets are valid for. Riders would have six months to use the ticket or seek a refund at no charge under the proposed law. If the LIRR won’t change this policy on their own, this legislation would change it for them.
Deanna Henderson (Massapequa): How do you plan on dealing with the ramifications of the tax cap on long Island schools to this Q & A?
Senator Fuschillo (12:44:00 PM): Deanna, thanks for your question. Local school boards are responsible for creating school budgets; they will be the ones who must prioritize school district spending to comply with the tax cap. The law gives communities the choice to vote to override the cap, as long as 60 percent of the voters in a school budget vote approve it. We will also be making additional mandate relief a priority this year to help further reduce costs and save taxpayer dollars. As I stated earlier, I’m also extremely concerned that the Executive budget does not give Long Island’s schools their fair share. But it’s also important to remember that in our current economy, with high taxes, high unemployment, and foreclosures at an all-time high, families have had to tighten their belts and do more with less. They simply can’t afford to keep paying more.
John Clark (Farmingdale): Why don't we have term limits on all political positions. It makes me so pissed off that these political people just get richer while we struggle to make ends meet. Why don't they have to pay into ssi as I do. And why do they get the money for the rest of their lives??????? Their children don't have to pay back loans for school... What are we second class people.
Senator Fuschillo (12:45:00 PM): As a state legislator, I have a term limit every two years; I only keep my job as long as my constituents think I’m doing a good job. I didn’t run for public office to get rich, I did it because I enjoy helping people. Just like you, I have high property taxes, high LIPA bills, I pay into social security, and if my children have school loans they will have to pay them back. Elected officials who think they’re in a class above everyone else don’t stay elected officials very long.
ROBERT ACQUAVITO (MERRICK): DOES THE R AND U AUTOBODY SHOP ON KEES PLACE RENT SPACES FROM THE TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD?THEY TAKE AT LEAST 12 SPOTS IN THE TOH MUNICIPAL LOT A DAY WITH THE CARS THEY ARE FIXING.
Senator Fuschillo (12:46:00 PM): Robert, thanks for your question. The Town of Hempstead does not rent these spots out to the auto-body shops. We’ve spoken with the Town of Hempstead and the Nassau County Police Department many times about getting better enforcement of the parking rules in that area, because many of the body shops continually park vehicles illegally. We will notify both the Town and Police Department on your behalf and ask them to look into this.
Lynne Bockelman (Wantagh): What can be done to permanently ban fracking? I am not at all reassured by the safety claims of those who stand to make an enormous profit from this. I see the potential for environmental disasters of many kinds. The most obvious is groundwater contamination, but there are others. If a pocket of natural gas were released and leaked up under an occupied area, thousands of people could be poisoned. Do we want our own Bhopal in New York? The danger of fires and explosions is far greater with gas than with coal. An example of one of the deadly possiblities is the coal fire that has been burning underground in Centralia, PA since 1962 - which made an entire town uninhabitable. What if that were a gas fire? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia,_Pennsylvania Thanks again for all you do! Sincerely, Lynne Bockelman
Senator Fuschillo (12:47:00 PM): Lynne, the State Department of Environmental Conservation is in the process of evaluating hydrofracking and whether it can be done safely in New York State. No decision will be made until their review is complete. However, I encourage you to also share your concerns with Governor Cuomo.
M.H. (Merrick): Can something be done about the constant noise from leaf blowers that are overused by gardeners to usually blow dust around instead of leaves during the entire warm weather months?
Senator Fuschillo (12:48:00 PM): The Town of Hempstead sets noise limits on when leaf blowers can be used and at what volume level. If you email me your contact information, we will ask someone from the Town to reach out to you to give you more information, or if you prefer, you contact the Town directly at 516-489-5000.
richard colantuono (wantagh): what good is it to challenge your assessment when the school districts just raise their tax rate and your tax challenge gets eaten up by their tax rate raise. why can't all school districts be given the same state aid and then have the same tax rate. It doesn't seem fair that some districts get more and some get less. If the counties would assess correctly we probably could make all districts equal in education and education funds.
Senator Fuschillo (12:49:00 PM): State education aid is based on a formula that accounts for a number of different factors, such as the size of the district, the number of students, what percentage of students are special needs, and the size of the tax base. Each district receives a different amount of state aid because no two districts are identical. Nassau County is reforming its assessment process but you should still consider challenging your assessment if you feel it is incorrect. The deadline to challenge your assessment is March 1st.
Janet Castellina (Seaford): The Seaford School District is in financial trouble. The families of Seaford have been raising money to Save Seaford Middle school Sports. What are you doing to get more money for the schools in your district?
Senator Fuschillo (12:50:00 PM): Thanks for your question Janet. As I stated earlier, the Executive budget proposal does not provide a fair share of education aid for Long Island's schools. As the legislature debates the executive budget proposal over the next few weeks, I will be fighting for greater state aid for Seaford schools and other all Long Island school districts.
Kristine (Massapequa Park): I'm writing this email to see if it is possible to have lights at Walker field at the large baseball diamond for night games. This past fall my sons played little league with some weekday, evening games that began around 5:15pm. These games lasted for about an hour and rarely got past the 2nd inning. Many of the parents were wondering why we don't have lights for this field. We have been told that the lights at Brady park are not used because they are too close to the homes on Lake Shore Drive but what about Walker park? As you know Walker park borders the preserve but does not affect any homeowners if it had some lighting. If this is an issue concerning wildlife then we could look to have the lights placed on automatic timers run by the Village that shut down at 10pm and are only on certain days of the week. Burns park has a wonderful complex that hosts night games quite often, but not enough time slots for the whole community. As far as funding is concerned, we first need to know if it is possible to accomplish. If there are no problems with a project like this and we can get the proper approvals and permits, then we can concern ourselves with the costs. Please let me know the best way to go about this. Thank you for all your service to the community and the State.
Senator Fuschillo (12:51:00 PM): Kristine, that field is owned and operated by the Village of Massapequa Park. Please email me your contact information and we will reach out to the Village and ask them to contact you to further discuss this. Or if you prefer, you can call the Village yourself at 516-798-0244.
M. Collins (N. Merrick): Will the lotto moneys ever be reverted back to the schools like they were intended to be used in the first place? How can we get top-heavy administration in our school systems cut back? There is so much duplication in supplies, services, etc. from district to district in NC. Are there any plans to investigate this area?
Senator Fuschillo (12:53:00 PM): Lottery monies have provided a significant amount of funding for schools. Long Island schools received over $332 million in lottery funds in 2010-11 alone. Since its inception over 40 years ago, the Lottery has generated over $42.5 billion for education statewide. Again, administration staffing levels, salaries, purchasing, and other spending decisions are made by your local school board. You may wish to ask your local school board about the steps they are taking to save taxpayer dollars.
Jim Gross (Massapequa): What are you doing to make the LIRR more cost effective? It%92s getting so expensive. I use it everyday for commuting and also frequently to take my family to the City. But it's just getting too expensive. We need to get the full pre tax commuter tax benefit restored.
Senator Fuschillo (12:55:00 PM): I completely agree with you Jim. Congress should never have let that benefit expire. Washington’s failure also means that the state’s commuter tax benefit, which is dependent on the federal one, also gets reduced, raising both your federal and state taxes. I am sponsoring legislation to restore the state’s commuter tax benefit to 2011 and adjust it annually for inflation, regardless of whether Congress approves additional extensions. Passing this law would mean your state benefit would rise to $240 a month for 2012. This would prevent the state benefit from being cut because of inaction in Washington. There is also an online petition I created where you can join me in calling on Albany to pass this bill: http://www.nysenate.gov/webform/restore-tax-break-commuters.
E (East Meadow): What can we do about the lights being out on several sections of the Southern State and the LIE? I have called and got the runaround with each office saying its not their responsibility, but someone else, and on and on. Thanks!
Senator Fuschillo (12:56:00 PM): Thank you for your question. Please call my office at 516-882-0630 to provide me with your contact information and we will contact the Department of Transportation.
James Stubenrauch (Massapequa): Last summer, we were prisoners in our own home because outdoors, we were eaten alive by mosquitoes. Nassau County only began spraying in September about the time a poor guy out east died of West Nile virus. We need repeated spraying all summer long, every year BEFORE the mosquitos become a problem. I wrote Mr. Mangano but he didn't even answer the letter. Another summer is coming. CAN YOU HELP US??
Senator Fuschillo (12:57:00 PM): We will reach out to Nassau County on your behalf and ask them to provide an update on their mosquito control plans for the coming summer. Or if you prefer, you can call the County Executive’s office directly at 516-571-3131.
Bob Hasteadt (Wantagh): When will the discriminatory MTA tax be ended. As a Realtor in a weak market it hurts double
Senator Fuschillo (12:58:00 PM): As I stated earlier, we passed a law last month which begins the repeal of the MTA payroll tax. Under the law, all businesses with a total annual payroll under $1.25 million, as well as self-employed individuals with incomes under $50,000 and all public and non-public schools, will be exempt from the payroll tax. That law takes effect April 1st. Having fought this tax since it was first proposed, I’m pleased that its repeal has begun.
Moderator (Massapequa): Our time is almost up. Senator Fuschillo, would you like to say anything else before we conclude?
Senator Fuschillo (12:59:00 PM): Just thank you once again to everyone who participated in this Q & A. I appreciate hearing your concerns and feedback. I'm sorry we weren't able to answer every question but I will be reading through all the ones we were unable to get to. We will be holding another Q & A session again in the near future as well. Thank you again for participating.