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Oyster Bay financial plan relies on legal settlement, layoffs

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto attends a

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto attends a town meeting in Oyster Bay at town hall Jan. 5, 2016. Credit: Chris Ware

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto’s plan to eliminate a $42 million operating deficit over two and a half years relies primarily on utility tax settlement money from Nassau County and payroll cuts, town officials said Wednesday.

“The problem is very real,” Venditto said Wednesday in an interview.

The proposed job cuts come as negotiations continue with CSEA Local 881, the union representing town workers, over a new contract to succeed the current contract that ends on Dec. 31.

“It would serve everybody’s purpose to be reasonable and to get this resolved prior to January 1,” Venditto said.

Town officials estimate eliminating 150 jobs will save $9 million in salaries and benefits. Venditto said the number could be higher depending on which jobs are eliminated and whether senior employees whose jobs are cut remain on staff in other jobs.

CSEA Local 881 President Jarvis Brown said Wednesday that his first priority was saving jobs.

“The union has to come up with a solution, or options or a plan to save every member’s job here in the town of Oyster Bay,” Brown said.

He declined to say what the union was willing to do to keep those jobs.

“The ball’s in their court,” Venditto said of possible union concessions, adding he was open to alternatives that “also solve the problem.”

The deficit accumulated over several years, reaching $42 million at the end of 2015. The bulk of the plan to eliminate it comes from a $26.7 million settlement with Nassau County over property tax refunds that the town had to pay utility companies.

Additional savings in Venditto’s plan include $9 million from payroll; $1 million from reduced use of consultants; $1 million from fewer seasonal and part-time workers; and $500,000 from cuts to town programs. The plan also calls for $3 million in increased fees. A tax increase to eliminate the deficit, while possible, would be a last resort, Venditto said. More details are to be available when he proposes his tentative budget next month.

The cut to consultants would primarily come from the town’s Department of Planning and Development where about $850,000 would be cut. Oyster Bay now spends about $4 million annually on consultants, finance director Robert Darienzo said.

Standard & Poor’s in April cited 10 years of operating deficits as one of the reasons for its downgrade of the town’s credit rating to junk status. Last year the town adopted a $289.6 million budget for 2016 which officials said Wednesday is projected to break even.

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