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At emotional meeting, Islip approves worker layoffs

At a rowdy and emotionally charged meeting Tuesday, the Islip Town Board adopted a resolution to lay off 97 workers - but also approved an amendment that calls for reducing that number next month if the union offers money-saving concessions.

Town officials said the workforce reduction will help fill a projected $10-million budget hole in 2010 caused by falling mortgage tax and interest revenues. Without it, residents would face a 25 percent increase in their town taxes, they said.

The 4-1 vote was preceded by an hour of public comments in which town employees, union representatives, residents and political candidates pleaded with the board to avoid layoffs.

"I have a family, a house; I'm about to send my daughter to college in two weeks," said Martin Lubliner, 48, a 28-year town security guard. "I hope that in your heart, you can find some compassion for myself and the many fine employees of the town."

The town will now forward a list of 86 full-time and 11 part-time positions slated for elimination to the Suffolk County Civil Service Department for review, town officials said. The amendment calls for the town board to revisit the list at its Sept. 15 meeting and, if union negotiations have produced savings, reduce the number of layoffs.

Speakers criticized the cuts to public safety, the town's animal shelter and the Islip Art Museum, which is slated to lose its entire staff. The town is seeking to transfer stewardship of the museum to a nonprofit arts organization.

Tempers ran hot as Supervisor Phil Nolan, a Democrat, and Councilman Steven Flotteron, the board's only Republican, verbally sparred during the public comment period and in the debate preceding the vote - each accusing the other's party of fiscal mismanagement.

The nearly 200 people who packed Town Hall jeered and whistled in response. Flotteron made a motion to table the layoff resolution. It was not seconded.

Flotteron also attempted to introduce an unscheduled resolution that would cut salaries, revoke take-home cars and require health insurance contributions for elected, appointed and management positions with salaries over certain thresholds.

Nolan declined to entertain the motion because it was not on the agenda and the board members had not had time to consider it.

As the board prepared to vote, Richard Hendershot, vice president of the town workers' union, Teamsters Local 237, stood and shouted: "We have an opportunity here to save jobs. Don't send these people out the door!"

Councilman Christopher Bodkin responded, "All of us in every way feel for you, and understand the tragedy of being laid off. We also see our responsibility to the taxpayers."

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