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Islandia, citing casino payments, proposes 25% tax cut for 2018

No Islandia residents attended the public budget hearing

No Islandia residents attended the public budget hearing at Village Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. Credit: James Carbone

Islandia officials Wednesday morning announced a proposed $3.974 million budget that would cut village taxes next year by 25 percent for the second year in a row.

Mayor Allan M. Dorman, at a public hearing held at 8:30 a.m., said the steep tax cut was made possible by an annual $2 million contribution paid by Delaware North, the Buffalo-based operator of the Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. video lottery casino at Jake’s 58 Hotel & Casino in the village.

The company last year agreed to pay the village $47 million over 20 years for “taxpayer relief” and to renovate a village park. Islandia also cut taxes 25 percent this year because of the Delaware North payments.

“We were able to continue our promise of an additional 25 percent tax reduction, to make a total of 50 percent over two years,” Dorman said at the hearing. “The reason for that is because of our tax relief agreement with Delaware North. . . . I’m sure the residents are going to be very happy.”

The future of the casino has been thrown into doubt by a lawsuit filed by opponents seeking to close the betting parlor, which opened in February.

State Supreme Court Justice William G. Ford ruled in September that the village board should not have approved a special permit for the casino last year, because Islandia village code doesn’t allow gaming facilities in hotels. The village has indicated it plans to appeal, and the casino remains open.

Village officials have proposed a code change that would allow “hotel/gaming” facilities in areas zoned for offices and industrial uses.

Dorman on Wednesday did not address the lawsuit and predicted village taxes would “even get lower” because of the Delaware North payments.

“I’m sure our agreement with Delaware North will be long and prosperous and beneficial for our residents,” he said.

Some Islandia residents and casino opponents criticized village officials for scheduling a morning budget meeting when many residents are going to work or taking children to school. Other than Islandia officials, no village residents attended the 9-minute hearing.

Jennifer Tomasino, one of the Islandia residents suing the village and Delaware North over the casino, said the early meeting was “deceitful and proves lack of integrity.”

Neil Munro, a former Islandia deputy mayor, said the hearing was not publicized on the village website. He said such meetings previously had been held at night.

“They don’t want people at these meetings. They don’t want people contesting stuff. They’re just being sneaky about the whole deal,” he said, adding the tax cut would save most residents less than $200 next year.

“In reality, it’s not good news: 25 percent ... is not a lot of money,” he said.

Dorman said in a statement the board “varies its meeting times to give different residents an opportunity to attend meetings.”

The proposed budget reduces spending about 10 percent from the $4.4 million 2017 budget passed last year.

The proposed spending plan includes a $114,000 cut in public safety spending, and $100,000 less for transportation, such as road maintenance.

Dorman said in an interview that village officials this year scuttled plans to buy new public safety vehicles. He said the village plans to buy two new vehicles next year.

The 2018 budget calls for a 13-fold spending increase in the culture and recreation budget, including $380,000 for new equipment.

Dorman, who was paid $36,000 this year, would receive an 18 percent raise to $42,480. The village’s four trustees, who made $18,000 each this year, would receive 15 percent raises, to $20,700 each.

Dorman said the village board would vote on the budget at 6 p.m. Nov. 28.

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