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Nassau County Staring At Possible 'Toilet Tax'

Story Updated: Oct. 16, 2010 8:45 a.m.

NORTH MERRICK, N.Y. (CBS 2) -- A proposed tax on sewer usage by non-profits such as hospitals, colleges, and fire departments could bring in $38 million a year.

But as CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reports, taxpayers worry they will now be stuck paying for it all.

Critics call the sewer fee -- a "toilet tax" in Nassau County. Next year's budget -- for the first time -- calls for previously tax-exempt public school districts, library districts and fire districts to increase their budgets, raise taxes, and, they fear, pass along the financial burden to taxpayers.

"It is being called taxpayer relief act when actually all we are doing is soaking the taxpayers with a toilet tax or sewer fee," said Nassau County legislator Dave Denenberg, D-Merrick.

Democrats in the legislature are blasting the Republican county executive's proposed "water usage fee"-- that would charge one penny per gallon of water entering Nassau's sewage system. They claim it would bankrupt hospitals, schools and more.

"We have 10 buildings and we have an irrigation system on our football and athletic fields. What would it mean in dollars and cents? Over a quarter of a million dollars," said Hempstead School Board president Charles Renfroe.

Renfroe said water is needed for school toilets, sinks, showers and landscaping. A North Merrick fire house uses 700,000 gallons a year, translating to $7,000 in fees. Libraries, too, are worried.

"We have to either raise taxes to get that money, libraries would have to, or they have to cut programs to get the money," said Jackie Thresher of the Nassau library system.

But the county executive said his sewer reforms would eventually lower rates for homeowners and businesses.

"I inherited a sewer district authority that's $28 million out of balance. Nowhere else in New York state do not-for-profits get a free ride," County Executive Ed Mangano said.

Critics said "passing along" taxes does not "freeze" taxes. A public hearing on the water usage fee will be held Monday.

If the budget is passed, the new sewer fees would go into effect in Nassau County beginning July 1, 2011.

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