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Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto under fire over tax hike

Supervisor John Venditto is shown at Oyster Bay

Supervisor John Venditto is shown at Oyster Bay Town Hall on Aug. 12, 2014. Credit: Jason Andrew

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto is defending the town's 2015 tax hike, after residents criticized the process.

Last month, the Town Board passed an unannounced 8.8 percent levy increase, after previously proposing a budget that kept taxes virtually flat.

"While you have followed the letter of the law, you have not honored the spirit of the law, and you have violated the trust of your constituents," John Capobianco, spokesman for the Oyster Bay Democratic Committee, said at the monthly town board meeting Tuesday.

Capobianco criticized the town for not making the tax hike public until after it was passed. "Your tactics were no better than a used car lot bait and switch," he said.

Capobianco, vice president of the Farmingdale school board, submitted to the town board an online petition with 250 electronic signatures calling for the tax hike's repeal.

In a heated exchange, Venditto, a Republican, criticized Capobianco and the Farmingdale school district for its tax hikes and spending. "You're going to come up here and tell me how to run a budget, or tell me how to spend responsibly, or how to utilize taxpayer money; I just think you've got a lot of nerve," Venditto said.

Capobianco said the school district's budget process was more transparent and stayed under the state tax cap. Venditto said Capobianco shouldn't criticize the town's budget when the school district has a large, highly paid staff.

Capobianco also assailed the board for meeting at 10 a.m., requiring him to take time off work to attend. Venditto responded that an evening budget hearing was held in October.

In response to another resident, Venditto said that he had said from the beginning of the budget process that the original proposal could change, and he never committed to keeping taxes flat.

"I don't know how much clearer we could have made it," Venditto said.

He added, "We feel we did the right thing, we get elected to make these decisions."

Venditto said that while unpopular today, the board's actions and the town's investment in infrastructure would one day appear courageous.

The impact of the tax hike on individual homeowners will vary depending on where they live and whether their assessment changed. For some, the percentage increase on affected tax levies will be in double digits.

Ariane Reyes, 20, of Syosset, who said she recently graduated from Stony Brook University and plans to join the Army, said rising costs, including taxes, are making Long Island unaffordable. "The tax increase is driving a lot of my friends to move to other places, and it's driving out a lot of young people," Reyes said.

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