State of Great Neck Parks District is ‘excellent’

State of Great Neck Parks District is ‘excellent’

Great Neck Parks District Commissioner Robert Lincoln Jr. signaled the beginning of a new era for the governing body in his annual “State of the Parks” address last week.

During the board’s annual reorganization meeting last Tuesday, Lincoln characterized the current state of the park district as “excellent” and honored retiring commissioner Ivar Segalowitz, who left the board after a nine-year tenure.

“(Segalowitz’s) dedication, hard work and skill have, without question, contributed significantly to the well being of the Great Neck Park District,” Lincoln said.

Lincoln then introduced new commissioner Dan Nachmanoff, a former Village of Russell Gardens mayor, who was elected last month.

“We welcome Commissioner Nachmanoff and look forward to working with him,” Lincoln said. “We know that he has much to contribute and that he is eager to get started. We will make sure to keep him busy.”

After praising the efforts of the commissioners’ to maintain the park’s infrastructure, Lincoln also said that the district is “financially stable and sound.”

“By monitoring and controlling expenditures, we have lived within our budget and have finished each of the last several years with a modest surplus,” Lincoln said. “We are able to maintain adequate reserve funds. At the same time, we have returned dollars to the taxpayers by allocating a portion of the surplus to offset taxes to the extent it is fiscally safe.”

Lincoln said these financial practices will continue in 2012.

“As local government, we have close control and can watch our taxpayers dollars, while providing desired services at a reasonable cost,” Lincoln said.

Last year, there were several projects that were completed, which Lincoln said were major accomplishments for the district.

The projects include new locker rooms installed at the Andrew Stergiopoulis Ice Rink, a sensory garden at the Village Green and a new playground at Ravine Park. He also said that the new Veterans Memorial has reached “substantial completion.”

“We have learned that, especially in these difficult economic times, our residents depend on their park district for services,” Lincoln said.

Parks district crews also completed the replacement of 60 trees lost in the micro burst of 2010 last year, Lincoln said.

“Funded by donations from the community through the Friends of the Parks Foundation, the carcass of one of the destroyed trees has been transformed into a grand, flag bearing eagle,” he said. “Two more carvings will follow.”

Lincoln also spoke of the park district’s plans for next year.

He said commissioners expect the opening of the Veterans Memorial to occur in 2012, along with the construction of a “much needed” garage at Allenwood Park

“These will all be accomplished with no additional debt,” Lincoln said. “We shall continue to dedicate a portion of each year’s budget to maintaining our valuable infrastructure. We cannot afford to fall behind.”

The parks district is facing a challenge in dealing with the state-mandated 2 percent property tax cap, Lincoln said.

“The state has imposed a 2 percent cap on real property taxes, but does not hesitate to increase state mandated expenses to local governments at a rate higher than 2 percent,” he said.

Commissioners will look to deal with that issue, Lincoln said by trying to “strike a balance between taxes and user fees.”

“The goal is to offset taxes for higher cost programs while keeping the fees for those programs affordable,” Lincoln said. “Given the current state of the national economy, we should review that policy. If it is the will of our residents, the current philosophy should be reinforced.”

Along with those challenges, Lincoln said the commissioners hope for more of an open dialogue with residents in 2012.

“The discussion should include a review of our programs based on the needs and desires of our residents,” Lincoln said. “We need to consider the costs for these programs and how they should be funded.”

“The park district belongs to our residents,” he added. “Their input is essential to ensure that, as commissioners, we fully represent their interests.”

The park district is comprised of all Great Neck Villages and unincorporated areas with the exception of Great Neck Estates, Harbor Hills, Lake Success, Saddle Rock and University Gardens.

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