Three state legislators plan to hold a hearing next month on proposed legislation to install a fiscal monitor to oversee the town of Oyster Bay.
Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), one of the bill’s authors, said the April 16 public forum will include discussion of the town’s finances and give residents a chance to weigh in on the proposal.
“We are going to listen to the people who live in the town of Oyster Bay and listen to what sort of a monitor they would want, whether it’s one person or some kind of independently appointed group of people,” Lavine said.
Lavine, who is holding the event with Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), who co-sponsored the bill, and Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport), said the bill needs a “homerule message” adopted by the town board to advance in the legislature.
The measure, as currently written, would impose a monitor, appointed by the New York State comptroller, with the power to reject budgets and override town government decisions, if necessary, to maintain the town's fiscal stability. The monitor would also make recommendations, issue reports and have access to town records.
Republican Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino opposes the measure.
“The legislation is purely political theatre as it does nothing to benefit taxpayers,” Saladino wrote in an emailed statement. “It doesn’t provide financial relief, doesn’t provide access to cheaper interest rates and it actually costs taxpayers more money by adding expenses to town government.”
Despite recent financial improvements, years of fiscal management problems have left the wealthy town with credit ratings just above junk status, which increases the interest rates at which it can borrow.
Oyster Bay Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr., a Republican challenging Saladino in November on the Democratic line, said he favors a fiscal monitor but would like to see changes to the legislation. He added that he doesn't want to see cuts to the town's union workforce as a result of the monitor.
“I would like to see a fiscal monitor to bring true transparency,” Altadonna said. “For far too long the spending has been unchecked.”
Altadonna said the law should sunset after six years rather than the proposed date of Dec. 31, 2028, and should include fiscal targets that, if met, would terminate the monitor earlier.
Councilman Steven Labriola, a Republican, said the bill would disenfranchise residents.
“It puts an unelected, appointed person from the state comptroller, with more power to overrule the supervisor and the elected town board on any fiscal matter,” Labriola said. “I don’t see how that helps Oyster Bay.”