State Sen. David Carlucci and a group of 50-plus met at the Congers Lake Community Center Thursday morning for the first gathering of the Senior Advisory Committee. The meeting consisted of Carlucci addressing a few issues and then taking questions from the crowd about any other issues they feel are impacting the senior community.
One of the first questions from the crowd dealt with taxes and the county budget, specifically where the county government is in the process with it and what’s going on.
“The projections were wrong, some of the things they’ve done are completely irresponsible and it’s led to this huge deficit that they have. So the county has asked for an increase in the sales tax,” Carlucci said. “So what I’ve done is I set up and just last Thursday had the county delegators, the county legislators, and someone from the county executive’s office to discuss why are they trying to do this.”
Carlucci said there are a few big issues with the proposed sales tax increase, one of which is that in Albany the governor, senate and assembly have a policy in place where they are not looking to raise taxes, but are instead trying to get out of the budget deficit by making cuts.
“So the problem we have is that it’s not something anybody wants to pass because we have to give them permission to increase the sales tax. Right now we’re working to come up with a strategy to help the county, but first what we’re trying to do is get all the information because I believe one of the worst things that could happen is that we allow them to increase the sales tax and then they still don’t even fix the financial problems here in the county,” Carlucci said. “Right now I don’t think that the delegation up in Albany is convinced that the plan that they have in place in solid, and we keep hearing different things about are they going to share with the county, are they going to share the sales tax with the towns, are they not? So we still have this whole new legislation that was passed a couple of months ago that doesn’t have the towns included in that process.”
Another issue relating to taxes a few in the crowd asked about is what can be done to counteract property and school taxes, especially for seniors who most likely don’t have kids still in the school system.
“The situation with our school districts we know is fundamentally flawed and we can see that particularly because of what we’re seeing in Rockland County,” Carlucci said. “We’re seeing skyrocketing property taxes, the inability particularly for seniors to stay here in the community and then you ask is it fair?”
He added that what he thinks should be done is to get more state aid and federal funding for schools to shift the burden off the taxpayer as much. He said this would help lower the taxes while not jeopardizing kids’ education.
Fred Rogoish of New City was even more concerned about school taxes after learning about Clarkstown’s , which would allow seniors to add on to their houses an accessory apartment to rent out to a volunteer, helping the volunteer find housing and the seniors pay to stay in their houses.
“On the outside it looks good,” Rogoish said. “But then you take a closer look and how much are you getting back? You have to pay for the add-on to the house and then you’re supposed to make that up with rent from a one-room apartment? Nobody’s really thinking above and beyond.”
The law calls for the apartments to be open to one-person or a couple possibly with an infant.
“By adding on the apartment, it’s going to change around all my taxes,” he added. “So will the tenant pay school tax and town tax living in the apartment? It looks good, but it feels like we’re getting screwed.”
Another big issue discussed during the meeting was Medicaid. A few people in the audience asked what can be done to improve the Medicaid system, which Carlucci said New York State pays $54 billion a year for, and has one of the highest percentages of users in the nation.
“We have a situation where obviously we know there’s a need and I don’t think anyone of us mind that we’re paying for this service to go to the people that need it,” he said. “The most disheartening thing is when you find out about the abuse that’s going on, when you find out about some silly practices. In the state of New York we have every county doing Medicaid in a slightly different way and you have no real control over the whole entity.”
Other topics discussed included technology, especially when seniors are looking for work. Carlucci said 858 people showed up at , and multiple seniors that day told him they felt employers weren’t receptive to their job inquiries based solely on their age. One man said maybe libraries could offer more classes for seniors on how to use computers.
Another woman asked Carlucci about using more money from the lottery to help out the schools and he said he proposed that 50 percent of the lottery’s earnings go to schools. As of now, he said, about about 60 percent goes to winners, some goes to schools and some goes into the general fund. He also said the state is discussing allowing table games into the nine racetrack casinos in the state as another way to bring in revenue.
Toward the end of the two-plus hour meeting, Carlucci said it was good they discussed a lot of broad topics, but would like to focus on some more detailed discussions at future meetings, possibly bringing in speakers for those meetings to talk about a topic. He handed out a sheet asking the crowd to fill out which three of the following issues they would like to discuss more at a future meeting, and possibly have a speaker come to the meeting to talk to them about.
The topics were:
- Social Security
- Health Care
- Elder Abuse
There was also a spot to write in another option. One woman in the crowd asked if they can just meet to talk about all of those items on the list at some point, and Carlucci said that is a possibility as well.