Officials in charge of Amityville Village’s finances should consider hiring a treasurer, imposing tax hikes that exceed the New York State cap and spinning off the police department as an independent taxing district, an accounting firm recommended after meeting with trustee Kevin Smith.
Smith alluded to the suggestions at a village board meeting last week and asked that they be published on the village website. The response from Mayor James Wandell and trustee Nick LaLota was a scathing rejection.
“You think we’re doing something wrong or underhanded, and I am personally insulted,” Wandell said at the meeting. “I don’t get where you’re coming from.”
He went on to describe the fiscal recommendations as “trash.”
“The findings are independent and it’s a very reputable company,” Smith said in a subsequent telephone interview. “I hope we move forward with more governmental experience and looking into more training for the current staff.”
The village’s most recent credit rating, released last week by Moody’s Investors Service, affirmed a Baa1, or moderate risk rating with a positive outlook.
Smith, politically isolated on the five-seat board, called earlier this year for an outside forensic audit, an intensive review used in fraud prosecution cases.
At his request, and at no cost to the village, Sheehan & Company, an accounting firm with offices in New York City and Long Island, performed a preliminary review of finances and found no cause for that type of investigation.
But, in an Aug. 3 letter to village officials that Smith shared last week, the firm advocated reversing several of the Wandell administration’s hallmark policies.
First, the firm suggested hiring a full-time treasurer to supervise sometimes complex village finances and improve what it called “inaccurate financial reporting” in internal documents.
Wandell’s administration, following the practice in some other villages on Long Island, merged the treasurer and clerk jobs in 2015 to save about $100,000 a year. Dina Shingleton, a former business owner and Chamber of Commerce president, holds the job as the village’s top administrator.
The firm also wrote that it is “financially healthy” for municipalities and other taxing districts to pierce the tax cap. For village officials to abide by the cap, the letter suggested, would result in “draining the resources of the Village.”
The Wandell administration has returned four budgets under the cap.
With the village facing rising payroll costs from its police department, the firm also suggested creating an independent taxing district for the department. Wandell said that would amount to an abdication of responsibility by elected village officials.
In an interview, Smith said he supports hiring a full-time treasurer and investigating the possibility of creating a police district. The Wandell administration’s adherence to the tax cap may be unsustainable, he warned.
Smith could not find a second on the board last week for his proposal to post the report on the village website. Efforts to reach the accounting firm late Monday were unsuccessful.
Amityville Village proposals
- Hire a full-time treasurer and train employees in government accounting
- Carve police spending out of the village budget by creating an independent police district
- Replenish village finances by breaking the state-imposed tax cap