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Islip eyes busting the tax cap in proposed 2017 town budget

The Town of Islip’s tentative 2017 budget includes a 9.9 percent tax increase — requiring the board to vote to pierce the town’s state-mandated tax cap in order for the proposal to pass.

The town’s tax cap for 2017 is 0.68 percent.

The tentative $223.5 million budget increases spending by about 1.05 percent over the current $221.17 million budget, and includes debt service for a $10.9 million bond for the Bay Shore Fire Department to renovate and buy new equipment.

The average household would pay an additional $48 in taxes under the proposed budget, according to town officials.

Town Comptroller Joseph Ludwig said crafting the 2017 budget to stay within the tax cap was not reasonable, given the town’s expectations.

“It was a difficult budget with the backdrop of the 0.68 percent,” he said at the budget hearing. “The modest tax increase that we have proposed here today helps us get back on that path of being in better financial shape.”

The budget includes funding to hire more staff for the Planning and Building departments in anticipation of large-scale developments starting construction. It also includes several raises for some commissioners and senior staffers.

Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said at a budget presentation last week that the town officials had worked together “to come up with a budget that we felt was responsible and reflected the needs of the town.”

The budget also includes capital improvements to the Brentwood and Islip ambulance service providers to update facilities and infrastructure.

Several commissioners and senior staffers receive raises in the 2017 budget, which Carpenter said is necessary to make the town competitive with other municipalities fighting for the same personnel.

“We were severely underpaying other employees compared to other municipalities,” Carpenter said in a phone interview after the budget presentation. She pointed out that the town’s tax assessor and planning commissioner have both left for better-paying jobs in the past year.

Carpenter also said that some of the people receiving raises hold more than one position. Department of Public Works Commissioner Tom Owens, who is also the parks commissioner, would receive a $45,000 yearly raise in the new budget. Director of Labor Relations Arthur Abbate is also the town’s personnel director and safety officer, and is slated to receive a $30,000 raise in the new budget.

Other senior staff receiving raises are planning Commissioner Ron Meyer, who is slated to receive a $19,000 pay increase; Long Island MacArthur Airport Commissioner Shelley LaRose Arken, a $29,000 raise; Chief of Staff Tracey Krut, a $15,500 raise; Ludwig, a $19,000 raise; Director of Industrial Development Bill Mannix, a $14,000 raise; and Tax Assessor Anne Danziger a $19,000 raise.

Carpenter said good salaries are essential to keeping her most experienced staff from leaving. “We don’t want this revolving door,” she said.

The board will hold a public hearing on piercing the tax cap at its next board meeting, 2 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall in Islip. The budget vote will be held on Nov. 10 at a 10:30 a.m. hearing at Town Hall.

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