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Oyster Bay delays hearing on piercing state’s tax cap

Oyster Bay Town Hall is shown in this

Oyster Bay Town Hall is shown in this photo taken on Sunday, March 27, 2016. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

The Oyster Bay Town Board postponed a hearing on piercing the property tax cap as the town supervisor introduced a $284.1 million budget proposal for 2017. That budget, which does not include special tax districts, is lower than the $289.6 million adopted for the current year.

Town Finance Director Robert Darienzo said the proposal would stay under the state-imposed tax cap, with a 2.3 percent increase in the property tax levy. That increase is greater than what is allowed under the cap for 2017 but state law allows municipalities to carry over unused capacity from the previous year. Last year, which was an election year, the town approved an early budget that did not raise taxes.

The tax cap limits annual levy increases to the lesser of 2 percent or the inflation rate, not including certain exemptions.

“The 2017 budget includes no one-shot revenues, no use of surplus so we truly have a balanced budget in 2017,” Darienzo told the board.

The hearing on piercing the tax cap was postponed until Oct. 18, when the town will hold its annual budget hearings.

The budget counts on lower salary costs that could come from layoffs or salary reductions for town workers. The town is in negotiations with Civil Service Employees Association Local 881 for a new contract. The preliminary budget reduces annual salaries to $77 million from $94.5 million, though some of the reduction was already achieved through retirement incentives.

On the revenue side, the budget proposal includes $1.5 million by charging for-profit organizations rental fees on fields at town parks and $72,000 for preferred parking fees at train station parking lots.

The fastest growing part of the town’s budget is debt service, which would increase to $92 million from $80.7 million. Despite reducing the size of payroll, employee benefits would increase to $57.2 million from $55.1 million.

Oyster Bay has been under fiscal stress. Earlier this year, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the town’s bond rating to junk status, citing a decade of deficits and unrealistic budgeting.

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