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Proposed $311M Oyster Bay budget keeps tax levy flat, boosts spending on salaries

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino on Jan.

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino on Jan. 8, 2019. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino’s proposed 2022 budget would keep spending flat for the first time since he took office in 2017.

The $311.6 million proposal would increase spending on salaries and contractual expenses while employee benefits would remain flat and debt service costs would go down. The town’s tax levy, as calculated under the state’s tax cap, would also remain flat at $232.9 million.

"The Town of Oyster Bay is delivering better services than ever before, even during the COVID pandemic, and we will continue to do so," Saladino said at the Oct. 5 town board meeting at which the budget was proposed.

The town has scheduled hearings on the budget for Tuesday.

Saladino touted recent upgrades by Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s, which over the summer raised the town’s credit ratings to A3 and A+, respectively.

"Our A+ credit rating means that we save taxpayers significant money each time we bond for roadway improvements, infrastructure projects, even when we bond to help water districts with the equipment they need to keep drinking safe water," Saladino said.

Saladino took credit at that meeting for the town’s reduction of a $44 million operating deficit, though the town’s 2020 audited financial statement shows that the town’s $44.6 million deficit in 2015 had dropped to $23.4 million in 2016 under former Supervisor John Venditto. The town ended 2020 with an operating surplus of $47.6 million, according to its audited financial statement.

Town spending has increased every year under Saladino, rising from $284.1 million in the adopted 2017 budget to $299.1 million in his first budget in 2018, and up to $311.6 million in the adopted 2021 budget, a 9.6% increase over five years.

Spending on salaries has risen sharply under Saladino, from $77 million in the adopted 2017 budget he inherited when he took office in January of that year to $93.6 million in the proposed 2022 budget. If the budget is adopted, spending on salaries will have gone up 21.5% over six years.

According to its most recent borrowing prospectus, Oyster Bay began 2017 with 1,025 full-time employees, reduced that number to 993 in 2019 and returned to 1,025 in January 2021.

Though the town board cut the tax levy by 0.5% in 2018, it has remained more than $20 million higher than pre-2017 levels. What individual property owners pay in taxes depends on where they live and which levies apply to them. The general fund levy, which applies to all properties, would increase by $3.5 million to $59.1 million in the proposed budget, compared to 2021. Other levies, including those for the two sanitary districts and a parking district, would fall.

One levy that has fallen sharply since 2017 is the Part Town levy that funds Oyster Bay’s buildings and planning department. That levy fell from $2.4 million in 2017 to $100,000 in the proposed 2022 budget, as tax revenue has largely been replaced by fee revenue. The town hiked some of its building permit fees in January 2017, before Saladino taking office that month, town spokesman Brian Nevin wrote in an email.

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