Curran, Martins trade blows on early tax hikes

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Jack Martins, a Republican, and Laura Curran, a Democrat, are running for Nassau County executive.

Two candidates for Nassau County executive slammed each other Thursday for tax hikes they each approved early in their local government careers.

Jack Martins, a Republican former state senator, said Democrat Laura Curran voted to raise taxes as a Baldwin school board trustee in 2012 and 2013, even after closing two schools and cutting teaching jobs while the district sat on reserves.

“And while she was cutting essential services, she added insult to injury by choosing to raise taxes even while sitting on millions of dollars in reserves,” Martins said in a statement

But a spokesman for Curran, a county legislator, countered that Martins voted to give himself a raise as mayor of Mineola after repeatedly raising property taxes, which he said amounted to “self-dealing.”

“Jack Martins has used his power as an elected official to improve his own bottom line, while raising taxes on the residents who had to pay for it,” Curran’s spokesman, Philip Shulman, said in a statement.

The tit-for-tat offers a preview of the possible general election campaign between Curran and Martins if Curran wins Tuesday’s Democratic primary against George Maragos, the formerly Republican county comptroller. Curran has the Nassau Democratic Committee’s backing.

The three candidates are vying to replace Republican County Executive Edward Mangano, who is not seeking a third term after his indictment on federal corruption charges last year.

The Martins campaign criticized Curran’s vote to close Baldwin’s Shubert and Milburn elementary schools in 2012 as the district faced a $4.7 million budget shortfall.

The Shubert School was at only 35 percent capacity and needed renovations, and the Milburn School was at about 50 percent capacity, Newsday reported at the time. The closings were to save $910,000, according to a Newsday report.

The next year, a school budget that would have hiked property taxes 7 percent — in excess of the district’s allowed hike under state law — only got about 55 percent of the votes when it needed 60, triggering revisions, Newsday reported then.

In those two years, the district cut about 50 teaching positions and cut sports and music funding, Martins’ campaign said.

Shulman noted that Curran’s school board seat was unpaid, unlike Martins’ mayoral job.

Jack Martins should know local communities decide and vote on the school’s budget priorities,” Shulman said.

Martins and the Mineola Village Board approved raises for their positions in 2009 after a series of village property tax increases. Martins’ salary as mayor rose to $27,000 from $18,000.

The raises followed a series of property tax hikes, starting with a 13.8 percent increase approved in 2003. The increases were “put in place as a result of restructuring” after Martins inherited a village with no reserves and a debt of more than $30 million, Mollie Fullington, a Martins spokeswoman, said.

Martins voted to increase his salary after the village was back on stable ground, Fullington said, noting that Curran voted in 2015 to increase county legislators’ salaries to $75,000 from $39,500. That raise will not take effect until next year.

“It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” Fullington said.

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