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Proposed budget boosts Islip Arts Council

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

Despite a huge property tax hike, one Islip group welcomed the town's proposed $118.9 million operating budget: the Islip Arts Council, which was awarded about $50,000 in funding for 2013, allowing the group to continue operating the Islip Arts Museum.

The Arts Council, which has run the Islip Arts Museum for the past two years with $128,000 in annual town funding, was told during budget deliberations that its funding would be eliminated and it would lose its town office as the town worked to close a $26 million budget deficit.

Nick Wartella, president of the arts council board, expressed appreciation with the funding level, which was awarded after months of negotiations with the town board.

"It's a compromise -- we gave up, they gave up," Wartella said.

The substantial funding cut will force the Arts Council to do less, said Wartella, adding the group will ramp up fundraising efforts. The Arts Council will no longer have to move from Brookwood Hall but will lose about half of its space.

Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, who had made the case for defunding the council because of the town's dire financial state, said Wednesday the two sides "met in the middle."

"We felt that they really, in good faith, were very passionate about their program," she said. "No one wants to see the arts go away. So we really were able to come to the table with a solution that was fiscally responsible."

The town budget proposal, which reduces spending 1 percent from the current budget, would have homeowners paying $225 more annually in property taxes on a house assessed at $400,000, a 65 percent increase.

Councilman Anthony S. Senft Jr., the five-person Republican-dominated town board's lone Conservative party member, described the potential tax hike as "troubling" but said there were few alternatives.

"I'm the last person in the world who thinks we should have a tax increase -- I think there's still work to be done on this budget," he said. "I don't like this budget; I don't approve this budget, but I understand why this budget has been presented in this fashion."

With Candice Ruud

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