John Venditto, the 59th Supervisor of the Town of Oyster...

John Venditto, the 59th Supervisor of the Town of Oyster Bay, at his office in Massapequa. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin, 2011

Oyster Bay's preliminary budget holds the line on taxes for general fund spending, but Town Supervisor John Venditto said that could change before the final version passes in November.

Venditto said he told town budget officials "to put forth a budget that would hold the line on spending and on taxes and we would use that as a starting point."

Asked whether it was realistic to pass a budget without increasing taxes, Venditto said, "It's much too early in the process."

The town board Tuesday voted to make the tentative budget its preliminary budget without changes. The town plans to hold hearings on the preliminary budget on Oct. 14 and must pass its taxing and spending plan by Nov. 20.

The proposal calls for $114.8 million in general fund spending, a $3.1 million drop from the 2014 budget. Tax levies for general fund and highway fund spending would be virtually unchanged at $37.7 million and $38.4 million, respectively.

In August, the town board authorized piercing the tax cap, which in 2015 is 1.56 percent, according to the state comptroller's office. The tax cap generally limits the growth of the property tax levy to the lesser of 2 percent or the rate of inflation, with some exemptions. Last year the board increased the tax levy by 8.8 percent.

This summer the town's financial troubles prompted Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service to downgrade its credit ratings, in part because of a history of deficits and overestimating revenue.

"The town and its residents have been through some difficult years," Venditto said. "This budget is the first budget that will take us to a complete and real economic recovery in Oyster Bay."

One area that would be cut is professional services, which are performed by nontown employees. The proposal calls for cutting professional services from $3.3 million to $1.6 million in the general fund budget. The plan would also cut community and youth services by $416,132. Venditto said both cuts were part of the town's belt-tightening.

Some salaries would increase compared with the current adopted budget because $620,500 of raises given to nonunion employees earlier this year are now included in salary calculations.

John Capobianco, spokesman for the Oyster Bay Democratic committee, said he applauded the all-Republican town board for "finally learning to live within their means" but said the process wasn't finished.

"We will see when the final budget comes out what the real numbers are," Capobianco said.

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