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Supervisor: Oyster Bay needs option of piercing tax cap

John Venditto, the 59th Supervisor of the Town

John Venditto, the 59th Supervisor of the Town of Oyster Bay, at his office in Massapequa. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin, 2011

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto says authorizing the town to pierce the tax cap is a necessary step in preparation of the budget.

"We're beginning our budget cycle, and I don't know how it's all going to shake out," Venditto said during a Tuesday hearing.

He did not say the town planned to breach the cap but said it needed to have the flexibility. "We're going to do what we have to do to shore up the town budget," he said.

Last year, the town breached a 1.66 percent cap with a tax levy increase of 8.8 percent.

Anita MacDougall, a semiretired computer consultant from Oyster Bay Cove who said she is in her 60s, told the board the town would set a "bad precedent" by breaching the tax cap. "I don't believe the town has investigated every single aspect of how they could reduce and control costs," she said.

Venditto said the town would go through the budget lines to "see what we can squeeze out" so that "if we pierce the tax cap, not to pierce it too hard."

In response to another question about town spending, Venditto said the town has invested in parks and infrastructure and provided valuable services to its residents. "Have I spent a lot of money? Yep," Venditto said. "Have I spent it wisely, I believe so; and I believe our residents understand that."

Before the meeting, eight protesters held signs criticizing Venditto. David Wright, 51, a clerk at the Nassau County Board of Elections who lives in Locust Valley, said he was there "to see if we're being taxed, if it's for the right reasons, not for pay raises."

None of the protesters spoke at the hearing.

The town must pass the budget by Nov. 20.

After the hearing, Venditto called a recess, and the board went into a closed-door meeting. He later said they were briefed on complaints about a house in Massapequa.

Venditto, who has been supervisor since 1998, said he wasn't sure what the rules were about holding a closed-door meeting, adding, "I'll find out, and if we have to, next time we'll do it out in the open."

State open meetings law permits public bodies to go into closed-door meetings, called executive sessions, to discuss a limited number of matters after passing a motion to do so.

"The recess in my opinion was simply part of the meeting and to exclude the public, a motion to conduct an executive session should have been made," said Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, when asked about the closed-door meeting.

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