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Amityville votes to ask a state agency to help with village finances

Amityville officials will seek help in shoring up village finances from a New York State advisory board.

The 4-1 vote Monday night, with trustee Kevin Smith opposing, invites a comprehensive review of finances and operations for the financially troubled village. The state board, the Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments, needs to approve the application, but Amityville officials said the village is likely to qualify, based on a record of high property tax rates and low average fund balance.

The restructuring board typically makes recommendations intended to improve financial planning or find savings through consolidated or shared municipal services. Those recommendations are not binding but could come with financial aid for the village to implement them, officials said.

The board's 10 members include experts such as New York State Budget Director Mary Beth Labate and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, along with six members appointed by the governor.

"We have made progress in the last few years," said trustee Nick LaLota, "but we still need help, and if we stop now we run the risk of going in reverse. This review board can possibly help us cure some of our ills."

At least one of the seven municipalities -- the Village of Wilson upstate -- that have undergone review held a referendum to vote itself out of existence, but didn't, and others have done away with major departments, but trustees said Amityville would not take those routes.

"There are things that might look good to them upstate that we know can't happen," said trustee Dennis Siry.

Smith said he opposed the review because it would limit the village's independence and likely add work for village hall employees.

Resident Chris Carman said any review would simply delay a reckoning over police spending, the largest spending category in the village budget. He said that some village officers are overpaid, given the village's small size and low crime rate.

"Justify the salaries," he told the board.

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