Islip commissioners present budget plans
Islip department commissioners have presented their plans for next year's budget, describing the fiscal impact of ongoing recovery from superstorm Sandy.
As part of the budget planning process, the heads of the town's six major departments discussed future projects, expected revenue and personnel needs at a special meeting Thursday with the town board.
It was unclear how much the new budget will cost, compared with the current budget of $111 million. Town Comptroller Joseph Ludwig has to prepare a tentative budget by Sept. 30, which will then be presented at a public hearing. "The budget document is not complete," said Acting Supervisor Eric Hofmeister.
Dealing with superstorm Sandy revealed problems in the departments and influenced their budgetary requests, commissioners said.
"Strains to our equipment during weather events were a challenge in 2013 and forced us to take a very hard look at Islip's aging fleet of vehicles and equipment," said Public Works Commissioner Tom Owens, noting the department still managed to pave more streets this year than any other year.
Hofmeister, who is also the commissioner of Environmental Control, said his department effectively handled the extra debris generated by Sandy and was moving toward greener operations in the town.
"We only expect a slight increase," in projected revenue in the current budget, he said. "But at least we're going in the right direction."
Hofmeister asked to hire an additional employee in next year's budget. Planning Commissioner David Genaway also asked for more staffing, saying the town's ability to function effectively was jeopardized by lack of personnel to handle jobs such as grant applications. "We are dangerously close to falling behind in missing these opportunities in the next rounds," he said, adding, "We are spread too thin."
Genaway wants to add four staff members to his department, which lost 10 percent of its staffing last year due to retirements and attrition.
He noted the planning department conducted more than 2,400 substantial damage inspections this year, in part because of Sandy.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Joseph Montuori said his department hopes for FEMA reimbursements after having spent funds to repair the town's beaches and marinas. "I really went through all my capital," he said.
Absent FEMA reimbursement, "if we need major repairs to a facility, there is a possibility we won't be able to open that facility."
At Long Island MacArthur Airport, the addition of two airlines and new retail and film and TV shoots at the airport have driven up revenue, said Commissioner Bob Schaefer. "We're at a turning point for revenues, so it's hard to predict, but it will be an increase," he said.
Public Safety Commissioner John Carney said the department would beef up marina guards, and launch the seasonal bay constable earlier next year for increased revenue.
After the meeting, Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt said the budget was tightly managed this year. "The commissioners had to justify for the board members every expense," she said. In 2012, the town dealt with a $26 million deficit by eliminating its entire human services department, laying off more than 50 staffers and raising taxes 28 percent.