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The East Hampton Star. (East Hampton, N.Y.) 1885-current, January 18, 1979, Image 15

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THE EAST HAMPTON STAR. EAST HAMPTON. N.Y., JANUARY 18,1979 II—THREE Would Tax Just Land Suffolk Legislator Martin J. Feld­ man, a Democrat seeking to run for County Executive this year, and his two Republican political allies, Legisla­ tor Anthony Noto, the new chairman of the panel, and Legislator Michael Grant — the group has been recently dubbed the “Gang of Three” — pro­ posed a new form of taxation for the County at an unusual press conference Jan. 4. Instead of ordinary taxes on im­ proved or unimproved property, they called for taxes to be based on only the land itself. This was termed “land value tax­ ation” and was said at the press conference the three held in Haup- pauge to be derived from the Henry George movement. A represen­ tative of that movement was at the session. Mr. George lived in the last century and, explained the director of the school that bears his name and at which his philosophy is taught in a five-story building in Manhattan, he believed “man is entitled to everything he makes and nothing that he doesn’t make. He is entitled to the fruits of his labor while Henry George believed the natural resources should be socialized.” Center Philip Finkelstein, director of the Henry George School, is also director of an arm it created three years ago, the “Center for Local Tax Research.” A film put together by the Center was shown at the press conference. It stressed how land can become less “idle” under the plan, it could be made “more liveable, more valuable, more saleable” through “land value tax­ ation,” it said. Dr. Feldman distributed a study the organization did at his request in 1977 on the impact land-based taxes would have on the Huntington portion of the Half Hollow Hills School District, where he resides. The study stressed that “tax bills would be cut an average of $119 for parcels of one to one and a quarter acres and by $477 for parcels smaller than a quarter acre. Only owners of large parcels . . . would pay more taxes.” Dr. Feldman, Mr. Noto, and Mr. Grant have taken first steps in the County Legislature to have a study done, by the Henry George group or some other organization, expected to cost $30,000, on the effect of “land value taxation” on Suffolk. Denunciation The program received an immediate denunciation for . putting the tax bur­ den on land rather than development, thus encouraging development in the County and loss of open space, it was charged, however. What was being called for is “in­ creasing taxes on open space, presum­ ably in order to keep homeowners’ taxes down,” charged Lorna Selzman, Mid-Atlantic representative of Friends of the Earth. “The result of this will be, of course, incentives to develop land, not to keep it open. In turn, develop­ ment will increase population which in turn will increase demand for services which in turn will mean higher taxes.” Ms. Salzman called for legislation “countering Feldman’s — a law that provides tax relief or incentives to owners of farms or open space who keep it undeveloped” and suggested “the Democrats find someone other than Feldman if they wish to chal­ lenge” Klein. Klein And Koppelman Mr. Klein said the plan “would precipitate a significant change in a lot of vacant land tending to drive it either into tax delinquency or desperation sale, a lot of open land which would otherwise remain open.” Further, he said it would “re-arrange an oppressive burden. I put a much higher priority on reducing that burden.” Lee Koppelman, the executive direc­ tor of the Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board and head of Suffolk planning, said the proposal “would not encourage development, it would force development.” “It’s to peoples’ advantage not to force a farmer or owner of vacant land to get rid of it,” said Dr. Koppelman. Development “incurs need for higher taxes” for public services. “One reason” for not taxing farmland and open space “stringently,” Dr. Koppelman went on, is to avoid “forcing development” and the tax spiral it leads to. At the press conference, Dr. Feld­ man, and in a subsequent interview Mr. Finkelstein, said land could be zoned restricted to farming or open space and thus the tax disadvantage it would have under “land value taxation” would be eliminated. Zoning However, Dr. Koppelman said this was “unconstitutional. In the State of New York you can’t zone land for what’s considered a non-use, and that’s what agriculture is considered. The least you can zone it for is residential.” To zone otherwise, courts in New York have ruled, said Dr. Koppelman, is “confiscatory.” He said Hawaii and California have established agricultural zoning but this is “permissive,” created by farmers who want “zoning to keep encroach­ ment away, but the day farmers want the land rezoned it’s over.” Mr. Finkelstein said the “land value taxation” system is not in use in any place in the United States although in Southfield, Mich., there is an assess­ ment system which draws from it. The film presented by Dr. Feldman, Mr. Noto, and Mr. Grant at the press conference featured a sequence involv­ ing Southfield. It showed factory and office development in that town and “construction booms” while on the “other side” of a river nearby South- field land lies “undeveloped.” Economy Dr. Feldman said “we’re trying to bring the economy up in Suffolk County, trying to excite people to build factories in Suffolk. We can’t do it with the present tax structure.” Mr. Noto said there might be “fears” that the development the “land value taxation” system would spur would also lead to a shortage of water, cause sewering and a “bigger monster.” But, he said, as long as the Pine Barrens of mid- and eastern Suffolk were kept undeveloped “there’s plenty of water there for everyone.” As to whether such a system would result in a major tax increase on the East End, where most of the land in Suffolk is, while causing a tax decrease in western Suffolk, Dr. Feldman said, “You can’t presume that at all. You can’t presume anything at all unless you do a total analysis.” He said, “We’ve forgiven the tax on vacant land.” He distributed a statement by Milton Freedman, the conservative Nobel Prize-winning economist. Dr. Freed­ man said: “Land should properly become the base for much more of the property tax, and less burden should be placed on buildings and other improvements. Land value taxation would accomplish this.. . . This method of taxation would reduce property taxes for the average homeowner, due to the fact that the value of his house would no longer be the determining factor in the assessment of property.” A Blow And Boost “Furthermore, with land value tax­ ation, we would be striking the first blow for economic development since we would stimulate the desire for the building of new structures— ” In a “press statement” distributed at the conference, Dr. Feldman is quoted as saying the system “would encourage timely development of . . . land and provide a boost to local economy through increased construction and services.” The three Legislators are quoted in the statement as saying “that vacant land which the community wishes to preserve can be protected from this development incentive through appropriate local zoning.” Mr. Finkelstein said: “You have to talk to farmers in a very straight way. If you want to be a farmer, be a farmer. If you want to sell your land for development, sell it. Most farmers want it both ways. It’s up to society to say we’re making some decisions about this.” He said Mr. George believed “no­ body should be allowed to say this piece of earth is owned by me and nobody else.” A resolution introduced by Dr. Feldman at the Jan. 9 session of the County Legislature calls for a $30,000 study to be made on the “effects of land value taxation.” The resolution is expected to be voted upon when the Legislature meets again Jan. 23. Karl Grossman CONNECTIONS Continued From II—1 help things. This winter I am babysitting till spring for another household’s indoor garden. (The verb is chosen intention­ ally). One of the plants is a huge cym- bidium orchid, with one long stalk of buds. Now that is not a plant to just water occasionally and ignore. As a matter of fact, the orchid started all this rearranging and repotting and worrying today to begin with. It took over the best spot and the domino ef­ fect set in. Even the summer tenants’ fuschia demands my attention. They had left it Discuss W olf At Door hanging outside near the front door at the end of summer. Obviously saner than I, the tenants knew its colorful life was over. Now it is a mass of young leaves on new growth and I am hopeful that it will bloom again, at least in time to greet them when they return in May. The rest of the family likes a pretty plant when they see one, but they don't seem to understand. The boys, who have gone iceboating, each has a plant in his bedroom. One is a bromeliad that takes little care. The other is very dry this morning and I water it too. My daughter balks at going out to the barn to look for the pottery shards I think I need and know I left some­ where. “Why don’t you ever bake?” she asks. Slowly the jungle I have made of the sunporch begins to be tamed. The ger­ aniums go back on the stand that wouldn’t hold the cactus, most of them that is. The potting soil thaws. Some shards are found, as are a few more pots. Nevertheless, there is no denying that today the plants, which have given me so much pleasure in the past, make me angry. For God’s sake, I think as morning turns into afternoon, I am the one that is beginning to tilt in the wrong direc­ tion and needs turning so that I face the sun. Helen S. Rattray 25 YEARS AGO Continued From II—1 here today it registered nine in some places in mid-afternoon but the air be­ ing dry and windless, did not feel un­ comfortable to the few hardy souls who ventured out. Some of us, looking at that snow and at the snow-shovel will say “This is where I leave for Florida.” Others will wait for Florida weather to come to us. Still others will say “Who wants Flor­ ida weather the year round? I like variety. This is just fine.” However you feel about it, it won’t be long now. Every succeeding day is longer; in a couple of months snow and ice will be forgotten. Main Street will be full of new faces and parallel-park­ ing will be even more difficult. East Hampton’s Quiet Season, regardless of weather, is something we would hate to exchange for crowds somewhere else. Some 200 persons representing Town, County, State and Village government and School Districts in Suffolk spent Jan. 6 at a conference on reducing costs and cutting taxes. “We have voluntarily come here today to find practical methods of reducing and restraining the tax bur­ den in Suffolk County,” Suffolk Executive John V.N. Klein declared as the meeting began. Mr. Klein and State Senator Kenneth LaValle organ­ ized the session, held at Sachem High School in Lake Ronkonkoma. “We can no longer afford the burden of municipal governments performing duplicative functions or failing to work together for the benefit of taxpayers,” he went on. “Our presence here today is a clear message to the people of Suf­ folk County: Each level of government understands its responsibility and is willing to attack the cost of govern­ ment through collective effort. Each and every step taken as a result of this meeting will be a victory to the persons who support us all with their hard- earned tax dollars.” Wolf At Door “We can no longer afford the luxury of working alone and continuing to isolate ourselves from the overall situation,” Mr. LaValle said. The “combined impact on the taxpayers” of all the budgets involved “has become overwhelming.” “California experienced a property tax revolt,” he continued, “because homeowners were paying two per cent of market value of their home as prop­ erty tax. In Suffolk, the average home- owner is paying three per cent and the wolf is at the door.” The main activities at the conferen­ ce were six workshops. Participants arranged for further meetings next month, to refine proposals arrived at, before the whole group reassembles for a second session in April. Workshops and highlights at them were: • Energy and utilities. This work­ shop, chaired by State Assemblyman George Hochbreuckner, deteriorated somewhat as a public relations per­ son for the Long Island Lighting Company challenged some of what was being said by participants in­ cluding Irving Like, the attorney representing Nassau and Suffolk on LILCO rate increases and Suffolk on LILCO’s nuclear power plans. “It became a philosophical discus­ sion which was not the goal of the workshop; we more or less got side­ tracked,” said Peggy Miles, a Klein ad­ ministrative aide, the County liaison at the workshop. There was some issue of what the LILCO pr man, Kevin Rooney, was doing there. However, there was consideration given to the establishment of a joint “utility watch­ dog group” and combined opposition to LILCO rate increases. • Insurance. This group, chaired by County Legislator John P. Finnerty Jr., stressed the possibility of a broad insurance pool for all levels of govern­ ment and School Districts. “Insurance pooling is the single most fertile area for municipalities to save money. The problem is that insurance on Long Island has been a feifdom of political patronage,” said County Legislator Floyd Linton. Brookhaven Town Supervisor John Randolph said there should be State legislation exempting municipalities from paying State tax on insurance premiums. • Labor-management issues. James Hines, superintendent of the Board of Cooperative Educational Services for the Second Supervisory District, led this session at which it was noted that the Taylor Law, which provides for binding State arbitration in public em­ ploye labor disputes, expires in June and there is talk about a campaign against binding arbitration. Mr. Klein, who was at this workshop, charged that State arbitrators are “responsible to no one.” He said if the County is to be forced to pay excessive arbitration awards in the future he’d have “no other tool to fight back” other than calling for equivalent lay-offs. Former State Senator Bernard C. Smith said “unions have the ability to put together substantial sums of money” to \fight against incursions into the act” and that “politicians curry favor with the unions.” • Mandates and regulations. This workshop, chaired by Southampton Village Trustee Charles F. Schreier, president of the Suffolk Village Of­ ficials Association, featured criticism of mandated State educational pro­ grams. There was consideration of a “moratorium” on such mandates, and talk of the State’s paying for whatever it mandates. Stanley Abrams, superin­ tendent of the Middle Country School District, said “the number one issue is that education is being financed incor­ rectly . . . the property tax is over­ worked.” Over 60 per cent of property taxes collected in Suffolk goes for schools. • Duplication of services. This workshop, chaired by Huntington Supervisor Kenneth C. Butterfield, president of the Suffolk Town Super­ visors Association, proposed Towns and Villages coordinate and share costs of snow removal. Islip Town Supervisor Peter F. Cohalan, at it, also suggested a “one year moratorium on all new park acquisitions and develop­ ment” and “tax exemptions for private citizens or organizations that maintain critical underdeveloped land in its natural state.” • Purchasing. There was talk at this workshop, chaired by Brookhaven Town Councilman Joel Lefkowitz, of cooperative purchasing although this, it was said, could save tax dollars in certain instances but cause additional expenses in others — in central warehousing and delivery of goods. There was discussion of municipalities and School Districts communicating with each other on bid prices, possibly through the BOCES Three computer which was said to have 135 terminals stretching through most of the County. Reaction of participants to the con­ ference was generally good, although some was guarded. “I am very pleased. This was pro­ ductive,” said East Hampton Super­ visor Mary Fallon. Karl Grossman

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