Fiscally troubled Amityville Village may become the first municipality on Long Island to seek assistance from the New York State Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments.
Trustees are scheduled to vote Wednesday on a resolution requesting a comprehensive state review of village finances and operations. The resolution has the support of Mayor James Wandell, Deputy Mayor Jessica Bernius and Trustee Nick LaLota, ensuring passage by the five-member village board.
The state board typically makes recommendations intended to improve financial planning or find savings through consolidated or shared municipal services. Those recommendations are not binding, officials said, but the board can come with up to $5 million in aid for the village to implement them.
The City of Albany was ruled eligible for the full amount in February; six other municipalities have undergone review, none on Long Island, and some have been ruled eligible for far less.
Municipalities qualify for assistance based on either high property tax rates or low average fund balance. Amityville meets both requirements, and its own officials have said for years that its financial predicament is dire. Its $15.4 million budget carries a $256,000 deficit, and the unexpected retirement this year of four police officers resulted in a $1.3 million bill for separation pay.
While trustee Kevin Smith said at a Friday morning work session that "I don't think we're at a point right now where the state needs to come in," most of his colleagues appeared to disagree.
"This is about the only option we have," Wandell said.
"We need new fresh eyes with new fresh ideas," LaLota said.
The recommendations based on the board's review of village finances could take about six months to complete, officials said.
But one municipal expert warned that the process is far from a panacea.
"In years past, a situation like Amityville's probably would have led to the creation of a state financial control board" with authority to issue bonds to clear the budget deficit, E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for Public Policy and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Center for State and Local Leadership, wrote in an email.
The Restructuring Board is "a much softer approach than a control board, and thus is likely to be less effective."