The Village of Mineola will hold a hearing to discuss increasing trustee terms from two to four years. Mayor Scott Strauss floated the idea at recent community forums he held with residents at Village Hall, but set Sept. 18 as a hearing night for the public to have its say on the proposed change.
Strauss indicated no public hearing is mandated, but the board wanted to give residents input. If approved, the new term lengths would put Mineola on par with comparable villages.
Mineola officials feel longer board terms would level out some costs, such as extra ballot production. Currently, local elections must produce ballots for 110 percent of registered voters. Mineola has roughly 13,000 residents, requiring the village to produce 14,300 ballots. Typical voter turnout–even in a hotly contested election–rarely surpasses 2,000 voters. That’s some 12,000 ballots–$.55 apiece, according to the Nassau County Board of Elections–that go into the trash.
“I might as well as put cash in a machine and shred it,” Strauss said of the leftover ballots. “It’s a waste of money. We’re looking to save money.”
All five board members are for increasing the term limits, and residents at the Aug. 7 meeting generally seemed to agree.
If four year terms are certified, additional years will not be tacked on to their current service. Each board member would need to stand for re-election at the end of their current term for a new four-year stay. This effort is to preserve staggered terms and avoid having the whole board up for election in the same year.
“To make this change, the only thing myself and my fellow board members have to do is take a simple vote,” said Strauss. “No public input is required. However, all of us want to know the feelings of our fellow residents.”
Village officials also pointed to the election newsletter that circulates in Mineola during election season as another area for cost-savings under longer terms. Deputy Mayor Paul
Pereira estimates it costs $1,000 to print and mail the newsletters to registered Mineola voters.
“We’re having village elections every year,” Strauss said. “Residents are tired of getting stuff in their mailboxes. You know, the campaign literature. [Candidates] have to start focusing on an election at the start of the new year, and they have only been on the board for a little over 18 months.”
Voting machines carry a hefty price tag. Mineola has gotten a break for the past few years, using the old lever-style voting machines. Currently, a waiver allows the village to continue using lever machines, but must be applied for annually. A bill proposed by Senator Jack Martins and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel to give the lever machines a permanent stay didn’t pass the Assembly, so it’s possible Mineola may need to switch to the new scanner machines, which are more expensive.
“If they don’t re-up the waiver of lever machines, we have to go to scanning machines,” said Strauss.
Trustee Paul Cusato thinks two years, especially for new trustees, isn’t enough time to get up to speed on village issues.
“I was always in favor of term limits,” said Cusato. “When you first run, it goes by so fast. If you win, you catch up on what’s going on, and before you know it, it’s six months later.”
Pereira pointed out villages that nearly mirror Mineola in size have four-year terms, as do even some smaller communities. East Williston, Freeport, Hempstead, Lynbrook, New Hyde Park, Rockville Centre, Westbury and Williston Park have four-year terms, to name a few.
“North Hempstead has 32 villages,” he said. “There are 64 villages in Nassau County. Of those 32, a lot of them are up in the smaller villages. Those villages all have four-year terms and I think you can get more accomplished that way.”
Even though he was involved in the community before he ran for trustee, George Durham said an extra two years would have aided his transition to the position he has heldw since 2011.
“It would give some leeway,” he said. “I think in the long run, for the fiscal responsibility of the village, it should go to four years.”