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Islip turns to residents for budget input

Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, at Newsday's conference

Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, at Newsday's conference room in Melville (April 20, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

Grappling with a projected $26 million shortfall, Islip Supervisor Tom Croci said park, beach and pool closures, massive spending cuts and layoffs are on the table as officials prepare the 2013 budget -- but he is looking to the community for direction.

"In order to continue services, we're going to need to be funded at a certain level," Croci said Thursday in a meeting with reporters.

"We haven't determined we're going to raise taxes," Croci added, but he said the town plans to raise revenue through increased fees and the sale of town property, which has been a hallmark of the largely Republican administration.

A preliminary budget must be filed with the town clerk by the end of September, and has to be finalized and approved by the board by Nov. 8. Croci said the town will advertise opportunities for public input at town board meetings during that time period.

Since he entered office in January, Croci said, the town has saved $1 million from the capital budget by halting nonessential improvement projects, such as building and drainage renovations. He said the town has saved another $3 million by having each department's budget start from zero and asking commissioners to make cuts.

The town board also voted this spring to dissolve its human services department, and recently announced a plan to pull funding from the Islip Arts Council for a combined projected savings of $1.5 million in 2013.

The $26 million shortfall, Croci has said, came in part from the use of $18 million in reserve funds and an $8 million pension payment that was deferred by the prior administration when it passed a $121 million budget last year.

As the town ramps up for budget season, he said officials will meet with local civic organizations and chambers of commerce to gauge what combination of service cuts and revenue hikes residents and businesses can stomach.

"I want to go to residents because that's what I promised them I would do," Croci said. "I need guidance from them on what they want their town to look like."

The worst-case scenario could include layoffs in every town department, cuts to services such as garbage collection and road improvements and the closure of popular town-run parks, pools and beaches, he said. Croci mentioned Timberline Park in Brentwood, Casamento Park in West Islip, Byron Lake Park in Oakdale and the 200-acre South Shore Nature Center in East Islip as possible closures.

With Nicole Fuller

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