Islip leaders approve tax hike, layoffs in new budget
The Islip Town Board Monday unanimously approved a 28-percent property tax increase, employee layoffs and fee increases as part of a $111 million operating budget for 2013.
The approved spending plan represents a 7.6 percent decrease compared with last year and includes at least 22 full-time employee layoffs and the closure of the town's shellfish hatchery, which was substantially damaged during superstorm Sandy.
Town officials estimated dozens of part-time workers will be laid off as the town eliminates its marina guard program.
Under the plan, the town portion of homeowners' property tax bills will increase by about $96 annually over last year on a home with an assessed valuation of $400,000.
Town Supervisor Tom Croci, a Republican who campaigned last year on lowering taxes, said the tax increase and some of the budget cuts are "outside of our comfort level" but deemed them necessary to deal with the town's $26 million budget deficit, which he said he inherited from his predecessor. Croci likened the monthly tax increase to "the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks."
Facing a raucous crowd of more than 100 residents at Monday's special budget approval meeting -- at times people booed and shouted at officials -- Croci pleaded for understanding.
"You're right to be concerned; you're right to be agitated," he said. "If we had inherited a truly balanced budget, this town board would have decreased taxes."
Kathleen Allen Hanley, 68, a retired teacher and librarian from Islip, opposed the hike. "Whether it's $7, $17 or $60, enough is enough," she said.
The budget -- approved 4-0 because Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt was absent due to a death in the family -- is $7.7 million less than the board's initial proposed $118.9 million budget, which included a 65 percent tax hike.
The town should realize annual savings of $711,000 from layoffs in the harbor patrol and $515,000 from the marina guard program, town officials said.
Fees for boat docks, beach and pool entry and for building permits will also increase.