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Oyster Bay leaders approve budget with tax hike

Oyster Bay Town Hall on March 26, 2012.

Oyster Bay Town Hall on March 26, 2012. Credit: Nicole Bartoline

The Oyster Bay Town Board approved a $277 million 2014 budget Tuesday, that promises a "moderate" tax increase and exceeds the state cap on increasing the tax levy.

The $276,754,036 spending plan is down 0.1 percent from this year's budget of $277,053,057.

But the tax levy totals $197,316,231, an increase of $15,964,647 or 8.8 percent from this year's $181,351,584. That increase exceeds the state's cap on tax levies set this year at 1.66 percent for most municipalities.

The general fund tax rate will be $28.087 per $100 of assessed valuation, up 4.1 percent from this year's $26.975. The increase will cost the owner of the average home assessed at $400,000 approximately $88 a year in additional taxes.

Town officials said there were no major increases or decreases in any spending area and no changes in staffing. The town budgeted $17 million for land sales in the current budget.

Since voters approved an August referendum to sell the public works complex in Syosset for $32.5 million, the town applied most of the money to current year expenses but said it is carrying over a surplus of $7 million into 2014. The town received $30 million immediately with the rest to be paid when the town vacates the land.

Supervisor John Venditto said in a statement after the meeting that the town needed to exceed the tax cap with "a moderate increase in local property taxes" to boost recurring revenue.

"Not only has the need for recurring revenue been cited by the state comptroller's office, the rating agencies have indicated that recurring revenue sources equate to a stronger financial position, and in turn we are confident these measures could bring back our higher ranking bond ratings," Venditto said. That "translates into lower borrowing costs," he said.

Moody's Investors Service lowered the town's bond rating two steps in February.

Venditto said the budget "is expected to stabilize the town's finances following years of fiscal challenges brought on by the national recession."

He noted that in the past 18 months, the town had won contract concessions from its union, cut discretionary spending, implemented retirement incentives, and sold the public works land. This allowed the town to continue to provide "first rate municipal services" and maintain its infrastructure in top form, he said.

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