Oyster Bay’s town board postponed a hearing on piercing the tax cap for a second time Tuesday morning just before holding the first of two hearings on the proposed 2017 budget.
The proposed $284.1 million budget would increase the property tax levy by 2.3 percent, an increase that would stay under the state tax cap by using capacity carried over from the current year, as permitted by state law.
“If we stay within the expense numbers, as shown within the document, the 2017 budget as a standalone item will at worst break even and actually generate a small surplus by 2017,” Oyster Bay finance director Robert Darienzo said at the morning hearing.
The board held its second budget hearing Tuesday night.
The budget is the first proposed since the town’s credit rating was downgraded to junk status in April by Standard & Poor’s, citing a decade of deficits and weak financial management.
Supervisor John Venditto said the tax cap hearing was being delayed until next month over resident concerns that the town had not followed proper procedure when last month it rescheduled the tax cap hearing.
Moving the tax cap hearing to its Nov. 15 board meeting, means that the board will likely decide whether to authorize piercing the cap on the same day it votes on the final budget.
Darienzo outlined some of the revenue and expense measures used to balance the budget. Those include: more than $7 million in savings on salaries through layoffs; $1 million reduction in part-time salaries; $1 million reduction in fees paid to consultants; $1.5 million in additional revenue from charging fees to for-profit organizations to use town fields; $4.8 million in increased property taxes; and $750,000 from “preferred parking” fees at town parking lots.
Venditto responded by directing the town’s deputy highway commissioner to speak to Herman about his streets and pointed out that Money Magazine had recently named Oyster Bay the 34th best place to live in America.
At the Tuesday night budget hearing, Marc Herman, 62, a dentist from Woodbury, complained to board members about potholes on his street.
“The quality of life in the town Oyster Bay has decreased,” Herman said. “In our neighborhood you cannot walk, drive or ride a bike without hitting a pothole.”
Citing federal judge Leonard Wexler’s statement “there’s something rotten in the town of Oyster Bay, Herman said, “I thought maybe the reason we don’t have money for the roads is because of the corruption they’re uncovering.”
Tuesday morning, Councilman Anthony Macagnone said the town should look for corporate sponsorship for its fields, parks and skating rinks.
“We have some assets, let’s use [them] to raise some revenue,” Macagnone said.
Venditto said revenue wasn’t a concern when the facilities were built but times have changed.
“The idea that the councilman is putting forward is an idea whose time has come and we should pursue it in earnest,” Venditto said.
Former Democratic candidate for the town board Robert Freier criticized the town board for not paying attention to the town’s finances over the years.
“The town tried to do too many things that we just couldn’t afford to do,” Freier said.
Venditto acknowledged that “at times I did try to be too many things to too many people.”
Dean Hart, a Democratic Assembly candidate, asked Venditto how much money the town had spent on legal fees to defend against investigations by 35 agencies. Venditto said that 35 agencies were not investigating the town and Hart admitted that he had made the number up.
Hart was later escorted from the meeting after depositing rolls of toilet paper bearing an image of Venditto in front of the town board.