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Islip manages to save 25 positions from budget ax

Islip Town has whittled its layoff list by about 25 people - saving the full-time employee at the South Shore Nature Center and eight staffers at the town animal shelter - and announced plans that would keep open the Islip Art Museum.

The moves leave some 70 town positions still slated for elimination, Supervisor Phil Nolan said Wednesday.

The town board last month approved 97 layoffs, but board members said they hoped they could negotiate with the union by Sept. 15 to save many of the jobs. The town and Teamsters Local 237 have reached no such agreement, officials said.

Nolan said 15 workers have accepted early retirement incentives, three more are expected to do so by year's end, and another eight to 10 have left for other reasons.

As a result, the nature center naturalist and animal shelter staff have been taken off the layoff list, Nolan said. Last week, the family that donated buildings and sold land to Islip in the 1970s for the center hired an attorney to examine the agreement, which it said called for a full-time resident naturalist.

Islip Town and Dowling College have agreed in principle to transfer to the college stewardship of the Islip Art Museum, whose entire staff was slated for elimination, according to Nolan and Dowling president Robert Gaffney.

Nolan pledged the art museum would not close during the transition. Gaffney said Islip's collection may be consolidated with Dowling's Anthony Giordano Gallery in Oakdale.

The museum's annual budget is about $250,000.

Richard Hendershot, vice president of Teamsters Local 237, said members would have considered a furlough and lag payroll to save up to 30 jobs if the town had committed to saving the rest. Hendershot argued the town should consider budgeting a smaller reserve and risking a downgrade in its bond rating - a move town officials said would be fiscally unsound because it could lead to increased borrowing costs.

Nolan, meanwhile, said some future town contributions to the union's benefits fund could be diverted to prevent layoffs. Hendershot objected, saying the contributions are being considered for a future raise for town workers.

Ed Wiggins, a Babylon Town worker running for executive board of Local 237, said both sides should be doing more.

"They shouldn't leave the room until they work out an agreement," he said. "The clock is ticking now for these people."

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