DiNapoli: 7 Long Island villages financially stressed

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, March 14, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, March 14, 2012. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

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Seven of the 15 most fiscally stressed villages in the state are on Long Island, state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said Friday.

Amityville, Manorhaven and Bayville were among the four villages in the state to receive the "significant fiscal stress" warning label.

Old Brookville and West Hampton Dunes were listed as having "moderate" stress, and Brightwaters and Garden City were "susceptible" to fiscal stress.

Some village leaders said the listed stress levels failed to reflect the impact of superstorm Sandy, but DiNapoli acknowledged Sandy played a negative role in some villages' finances.

He described the report as an "early warning" for communities that could be headed for financial crises.

"This is really meant to be a way to sound the alarm bells if you're headed in the wrong direction," he said in a phone interview.

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Villages in financial jeopardy can reach out to the comptroller's office for risk assessment or budget review help, DiNapoli said.

He said his office used a "fiscal stress monitoring system" to evaluate 535 villages that had fiscal years ending on May 31, 2013 -- all but a handful of the state's villages.

The comptroller's office took financial indicators such as debt and surplus levels into account in formulating the report, which follows similar reports about towns, counties, cities and school districts.

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The report states that Manorhaven's short-term debt of $485,000 in fiscal 2013 is nearly 11 percent of the village's budget, when less than 5 percent would be better.

Giovanna Giunta, the village's mayor, said the report does not account for Sandy's impact on village finances. More than 80 percent of those expenses will be reimbursed to the village, she said.

Old Brookville Mayor Bernard Ryba said his village's finances were taxed by Sandy, which forced $718,000 in emergency cleanup costs. About 90 percent of those expenses were reimbursed after the fiscal year, he said.

West Hampton Dunes Mayor Gary Vegliante said he had not seen the report but the village is "not in any distress at all."

Bayville Mayor Douglas Watson said the report doesn't take into account increases to health insurance and pension payments that villages must fund.

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"They bog us down with mandates, they squeeze the life out of us," Watson said.

Amityville Mayor James Wandell said he is "well aware of the village's financial condition, which is not good," and the village is working to enact new fiscal controls.

Attempts to contact officials in the other villages were not successful.

Freeport, Long Island's second-largest village, was listed as "inconclusive" in the report because not all of its financial information was available, a DiNapoli spokesman said. Hempstead, Long Island's largest village, was listed as having "no designation," meaning it was not found to be in a state of distress.

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