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Oyster Bay may postpone hearing on piercing the tax cap

Oyster Bay's Town Board is scheduled to release

Oyster Bay's Town Board is scheduled to release the preliminary 2017 budget on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Oyster Bay’s Town Board plans to postpone a hearing on piercing the tax cap scheduled for Tuesday to a later date, Councilman Joseph Pinto said Monday.

An adjournment would mean that the board could later vote on the issue of whether to exceed the cap before approving the final 2017 budget in November. The preliminary budget is scheduled to be released on Tuesday.

Half the six-member board said in interviews Monday that they oppose piercing the cap and Pinto said he would vote against it.

“I will not be voting to pierce the tax cap,” Pinto said. “I have a responsibility to take care of my taxpayers.”

On Thursday, the town announced in a news release that piercing the tax cap “will no longer be entertained” by the board. Spokeswoman Marta Kane said in an email Thursday that “the hearing will not happen, as it is unnecessary.”

On Friday, however, a hearing to pierce the cap remained on the agenda for the Tuesday meeting.

Last week, Pinto said that he and other board members had pressed the administration to keep the spending under the cap. But on Monday, he said he had been informed by the administration that an investor in the town’s debt and the town’s bond counsel had expressed concerns about the town board’s move away from piercing the cap.

In June, town officials indicated in a borrowing prospectus that “the town is committed to adopting a tax increase to generate sufficient recurring revenues as is necessary to create surpluses.”

The board kept the budget under the cap in this year’s budget, but in the previous two years it pierced the cap, passing consecutive 8.8 percent tax levy increases.

Earlier this month Town Supervisor John Venditto said that authorization to exceed the tax cap was an option he needed in order to prepare the budget.

Councilman Anthony Macagnone said the Tuesday hearing should go ahead.

“We should have the hearing anyway — it’s scheduled,” Macagnone said. “The supervisor is entitled to have his hearing.”

Macagnone said he would most likely vote against piercing the cap but he reserved his decision.

“I have to hear all the facts, but honestly I think we’re taxed enough,” Macagnone said. “We have to look to work within our means.”

Councilwoman Michele Johnson also said Monday she was against overriding the cap.

“I am not in favor of piercing the tax cap,” Johnson said. “We’ve all been working very hard . . . finding additional revenues and cutting our different budgets.”

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.

Former Democratic candidate for the town board Robert Freier said the town is in this position of considering piercing the tax cap because Venditto “for years mismanaged the finances of this town.”


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