The Oyster Bay Town Board voted Tuesday to schedule a hearing on whether to pierce the state’s property tax cap.
The hearing, set for Sept. 27, is required before the board can adopt a resolution allowing it to override the tax cap. The state law caps the annual growth of the tax levy at the lesser of 2 percent or the rate of inflation, not counting certain exemptions.
Town Supervisor John Venditto said at Tuesday’s meeting that exceeding the tax cap was an option he needed in order to prepare the budget.
“All the tools have to be on the table, whether or not we use the tools is another issue,” Venditto said. He said the town’s fiscal problems need to be resolved through the budget process, adding: “This needs to stop and this needs to stop with this budget cycle.”
In April, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Oyster Bay’s credit rating to junk status, citing a decade of deficits, unrealistic budgets and the lack of a debt policy.
Many municipalities adopt legislation to pierce the cap so they have the flexibility to do so. Oyster Bay did not authorize piercing the cap last year, which was an election year, and adopted a budget within the cap.
During the previous two years the town board passed consecutive 8.8 percent tax levy increases, including an unannounced increase in 2015 without public discussion.
This year town officials have indicated in financial documents that the “the town is committed to adopting a tax increase to generate sufficient recurring revenues as is necessary to create surpluses.”
The disclosure noted that between 2013 and 2015 the town has raised tax levies by a cumulative total of more than 20 percent. Every one percent increase in the town tax levy generates approximately $2 million in recurring revenue, the town said in its disclosure.
Asked by resident Paul Molinari, a retired environmental engineer from Hicksville, about why the town was continuing to spend money on things like outside legal counsel and requirements contracts — in which a municipality purchases services on an as-needed basis — when the town was in financial trouble, Venditto said the town has been taking steps to reduce spending.
“You’re only seeing what we’re doing, you’re not seeing what we’re not doing,” Venditto said.