The race for the District 6 Legislator seat began at the end of March when challenger Laura Burns announced her bid against incumbent William Gaylor.
The Herald asked both candidates questions tackling issues that affect residents in District 6, which comprises Malverne, Lynbrook, North Lynbrook, Valley Stream and portions of Rockville Centre, Hewlett, Franklin Square and Woodmere.
Herald: With the county’s current financial situation, where are some areas that you can help to save money moving forward?
Burns: The first step in fixing any problem is recognizing that we have a problem. William Gaylor and the majority in the Nassau Legislature did nothing during the eight years of Ed Mangano’s administration, and so are complicit in the broken assessment system that has been passed along to the residents of our district.
I believe that every dollar the county takes in should be delivered back as value to our taxpayers. Right now $170 million goes to debt service every year, which delivers no value to taxpayers. So step one is to complete reassessment reform to eliminate the mass grievance system that’s created this financial hole. That money could — and should — be used to provide the high quality services the people of Nassau County deserve. The sooner we are able to get our county back on solid financial footing, the sooner we can remove state oversight and get down to the important work of improving our roads, fixing our crumbling infrastructure, and providing the services taxpayers need.
Gaylor: County spending has been completely out of control and needs to be reigned in. As Legislator, I have supported and will continue to support necessary capital spending in order to maintain and repair our roads, beautify our parks and maintain our buildings. However, we must control costs, identify new revenue sources and grant opportunities if we are to continue to do so without raising any taxes. Furthermore, a continued challenge has been the massive unfunded mandates forced on counties by New York state. Nassau County sends billions more in taxes to New York state than it ever gets back in state aid, and one way to alleviate the financial burden on Nassau County would be to reign in spending at the state level, stop the unfunded state mandates, and allow Nassau County residents to keep more of their hard earned money.
Herald: The county’s tax-assessment system has been a huge topic of discussion this year. What needs to be done to resolve this issue?
Burns: The county’s tax assessment system must be fair and accurate. The system must be transparent. And ultimately taxpayers must feel that they know who is accountable. The roadblocks put in place by the Republican majority have been actively undermining public confidence in the reassessment process, even though Newsday’s independent study showed that this reassessment has been successful in eliminating disparities. The Majority in the Legislature should immediately pass the Taxpayer Protection Act so that no taxpayer is required to absorb a dramatic increase in costs due to the fault of the Majority ignoring the tax assessment problem for eight years.
If elected, my focus will be on making sure my constituents do not pay a dime more than they should. I want to move past the distraction of partisan election-year bickering, complete the reassessment overhaul that the entire legislature agreed was necessary, and begin to move Nassau County forward again.
Gaylor: First and foremost, we have to address the lack of transparency in County Executive Laura Curran’s broken assessment system. Residents have complained that their calls to the Department and administration go unanswered and our own county assessor has not held a single public hearing to explain his process and assessment methodology. Residents attending tax grievance workshops and the exemption workshops are outraged about the lack of information and transparency by the Curran Administration and the Assessment Department. To combat this troubling lack of transparency, I have sponsored legislation to require tax impact notifications be mailed to every county homeowner to provide additional information as to how the county executive’s reassessment will impact their tax bills. Additionally, I sponsored legislation to require the disclosure of the complete assessment algorithm used by the Department of Assessment to determine residents’ assessments. I have also sponsored legislation to require the Department of Assessment to answer the phone calls of concerned residents and to force the county assessor to hold public hearings on the future issuance of the Tax Assessment Roll. It is my intention to make the assessment process as transparent as possible, to treat Nassau residents with the utmost fairness.
Herald: Between discolored water and high bills, water issues have been a major concern for residents in parts of District 6. What is the best way to address this problem?
Burns: Put simply, every home needs safe, clean water. Villages in District 6 like Malverne and Rockville Centre have been addressing their brown water problems by replacing old pipes and updating iron filtration capabilities. I will work with federal agencies such as the EPA, state agencies like the DEC, and village representatives to make sure we continue improving water quality throughout the district. I will also push for better testing of the water supply to identify levels of emerging contaminants. We are all concerned about the safety of our drinking water here in Nassau County and as a parent, I worry about long-term effects on my kids. There is nothing more important than the safety of the water we drink.
The fact that water rates are sky high while water quality is poor is unacceptable. I will be in constant communication with our state representatives about how to reduce this burden on the residents of District 6. People should not be paying outrageous prices for water, and their water should be safe, meeting or exceeding state and federal standards.
Gaylor: For the high taxes we pay in Nassau County, there is absolutely no excuse for our worsening water quality. In my time as Legislator, I have worked tirelessly to address this issue. I worked to establish the Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection, a joint Nassau/Suffolk agency to address threats to Long Island’s groundwater and to advocate for a coordinated, regional approach to groundwater resources management. I have also been a fierce opponent to the proposed reopening of the New York City-Queens groundwater wells, which carries unpredictable risks to Long Island’s sole source aquifer system — our only source of drinking water. I have also sought additional funding from New York state and the federal government to address groundwater contamination emanating from the Grumman facility in Bethpage without putting the financial burden on Nassau taxpayers.
Herald: Why would you be a better representative for your communities than your opponent?
Burns: I’ll let my opponent’s lack of results for our communities speak for itself. He has done nothing but remain a reliable vote for his party — putting politics over people. A prime example of William Gaylor being out of touch with the residents of L.D. 6 can be seen in the fact that he advocated, as a paid attorney, for a gun shop developer who sought to open a gun shop and “gun spa” within feet of schools and houses of worship right here in his district. When I meet residents across District 6, they do not know who their County Legislator is. However, they do know that their daily struggles — crumbling infrastructure and a declining quality of life — have not been addressed. Why? Because my opponent chose to do nothing while the Republican machine enabled a culture of corruption and focused only on maintaining power for themselves. I will change that by being an accessible and effective Legislator who will bring real results to our communities.
Gaylor: As Legislator, it has always been my sole priority to do what is best for the people of Nassau County. I am fighting for bringing fairness and transparency to our county’s broken property assessment system, standing proudly with residents every step of the way. I have also sponsored numerous measures to ensure that our residents are safe. That is why I introduced legislation to combat scams on our seniors, and to end homelessness among our great veterans, both of which passed unanimously. Simply put, I have been a fierce advocate for what’s right for Nassau residents, and I have the record to prove it.