The Amityville Village Board will delay until next month a vote on whether to seek assistance from a New York State advisory board that deals with financially troubled municipalities.
Coming after unusually bitter and personal debate, the decision to postpone revealed the deep misgivings of some residents and at least one trustee, who fear the village could sacrifice autonomy to the state by inviting a comprehensive review of its finances and operations.
"They're going to tell you how to spend the money, that's the bottom line," said trustee Kevin Smith at a Wednesday night village board meeting. "This board doesn't work together as a whole, and I can't see us working together with another board."
The 10-member Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments is dominated by appointees of the governor and can make recommendations about improving fiscal stability, management and the delivery of public services. The restructuring board often recommends consolidating or sharing services with neighboring municipalities or other layers of government.
Municipalities that chose to follow its recommendations may be eligible for state grants of up to $5 million to implement them, though most of the seven municipalities that have undergone review have received less.
Mayor James Wandell, Deputy Mayor Jessica Bernius and trustee Nick LaLota said last week that they supported a review for the village, which the state comptroller said this year was among the most financially stressed in New York. Together, they could have pushed the vote through the five-member village board, with or without the support of trustee Dennis Siry, who said he was still considering the matter. Instead, the village board will take up the matter again Sept. 14.
The angriest exchange came not among trustees but between Bay Village Civic Association president Joan Donnison and LaLota, who has pushed aggressively for cost savings and bringing in the restructuring board, when she accused him of running roughshod over what she described as a tradition of consensus in the village.
"You've lived here a very short time," she said. "You don't get it yet."
LaLota countered: "That's the xenophobic attitude that's destroying us."
Amityville's $15.4 million budget carries a $256,000 deficit and the unexpected retirement this year of four police officers resulted in a $1.3 million bill for separation pay.Credit ratings agency Moody's Investors Service removed its negative outlook for the village in late July, however, writing that "finances have improved the past two years and are expected to continue improving."