Three months after Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto announced that a task force would release a report within 90 days with a plan to repair the town’s finances, there is no task force and no report.
In a conference call on April 27, the day Standard & Poor’s downgraded the town’s credit rating to junk status citing a decade of deficits and unrealistic budgets, Venditto turned the call over to Councilman Joe Pinto who said he had been tapped to lead a task force to report on plans to remedy the downgrade.
The following day Venditto said the group was still being formed with “Joe Pinto and myself working together to decide what the scope of the activity of the task force should be.”
While Pinto had wanted to tap outsiders including the state and county comptrollers to look into the town’s finances, Venditto said the core would be himself, Pinto, Town Comptroller Robert McEvoy, Finance Director Robert Darienzo and Oyster Bay’s outside financial adviser and auditor.
“We don’t have a task force,” Pinto said at the town board’s July 12 meeting.
“It turned out to be more of a committee” to do “a review of the budget and a review of the revenue and expenses,” Pinto said in an interview Monday.
Venditto said Monday in a text message that “there is a task force that has long since morphed into something much more.”
“I’ve been getting many helpful suggestions from many sources,” Vendito wrote. “I’ll be proposing a comprehensive plan prior to Labor Day which will address all of the material financial issues the town is facing.”
Pinto said that he’s met with the committee three or four times, but that he’s generally been excluded. “They’ve had many meetings,” he said.
Pinto said Deputy Town Comptroller Christine Wiss has been preparing a report on Oyster Bay’s finances for the town board but that he has not seen it. Pinto said he was involved in meetings in which department heads discussed potential cost savings.
Officials have given investors more detail.
“The town has developed a specific plan to bring its budget into structural balance in 2017 and eliminate all accumulated deficit by 2018,” the town disclosed last month in a borrowing prospectus. That deficit is more than $40 million, according to town documents.
That plan includes reducing capital spending and limiting new borrowing to 75 percent of the principal of debt being paid off each year. The disclosure said the town board is expected later this year to approve the plan, which would cover five to seven years.
The town expects to generate savings from a retirement incentive program and the disclosure reported that the town board will adopt a “hiring freeze.”
Oyster Bay officials are asking for union concessions in a contract that expires at the end of the year. Venditto confirmed that ending a lifetime guarantee of health care benefits is on the table in those negotiations.
Noting that the town’s tax levies were raised by a cumulative total of more than 20 percent from 2013 to 2015, the town told investors that the board has “certainly showed the will” to raise taxes “when necessary.”