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Venditto: Debt Not A Worry

Supervisor speaks about

bonding, taxes and town debt

Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto believes that the town is a great place to live and he emphatically said so at a recent board meeting.

He also forcefully defended the decision to incur debt, which he said protects the quality of life of the town’s residents.

“I made a decision a long time ago, that while I would never spend unreasonably, I would spend appropriately to advance legitimate town purposes,” he said. “And I don’t think there is any higher town purpose than to protect the quality of life that we enjoy in the Town of Oyster Bay– the suburban quality of life that we enjoy here in the Town of Oyster Bay.”

Venditto said that quality of life in the town is evidenced, among other things, by the town’s response to Hurricane Sandy as well as the recent blizzard. The supervisor said that it costs money to provide these services, and as long as it is reasonable, he is willing to spend the money to protect the services that residents expect and deserve.

At the meeting, additional bonding of $5.42 million was approved to pay the cost of public parking improvements, park district improvements and solid waste district improvements. The board also approved a law which would enable the town to override the tax cap. Many municipalities take this action without planning on overriding the cap, but do so as a precaution in case it is deemed necessary to pierce the cap. Venditto commented that if it’s necessary to do so, he would have “no problem with it,” if “it’s the right thing to do in order to protect the Town of Oyster Bay.”

Councilman Chris Coschignano joined in the discussion. He agreed with the supervisor’s statement that town taxes are actually a small portion of real property taxes.

“We have to make people understand, we’re 10 or 11 cents on the dollar,” he said. “That’s it for us.”

However, Venditto also made a point of saying that although town taxes are a small portion of property tax bills when compared to school taxes, he does not have a problem with school taxes, either. He said that he benefited from the Massapequa schools and his children have benefited from Farmingdale schools.

“I have no problem paying school district taxes,” he said. “What I do have a problem with though is when people come up and act as if the Town of Oyster Bay is somehow responsible. I’m happy with my school taxes. I pay them with a smile.”

He also added that the town has helped school districts with their financial burdens by building parks and athletic centers when school districts were constrained in doing so. He and the board spoke of partnering with all town school districts, specifically mentioning Plainedge, Bethpage, Farmingdale, Massapequa, Plainview and North Shore.

The supervisor made a point of saying that by protecting the quality of life in the town, home values have also been protected. He said that town real estate prices increased by a larger percentage than other towns in the northeast region and have declined less dramatically than other areas when the recession hit.

Critics have charged that the town has amassed too much in debt. Currently, the town owes more than $800 million, but Venditto said the town would easily repay this.

“Even our worst detractors acknowledge that while the Town of Oyster Bay’s debt is higher than everybody else’s, we certainly have the ability to repay,” he said.

“Let’s discuss the quality of our infrastructure [and] what we have as assets,” added Coschignano. Both he and Venditto said that while the town incurred debt rebuilding the town’s infrastructure, this has been taken care of, and now the town is better off than other municipalities who must now make repairs in a tough economy.

In order to reduce costs, the town will be offering a retirement incentive for the third time in three years. The incentive will be eligible to employees who are 55 years of age or older who have five years of service to the town. Each retiree would receive $1,000 for each year of service in the New York State Retirement System. Retirees would also receive lifetime health benefits, payment for unused sick and vacation days. According to town officials, about 200 employees have taken the last two incentives, with the last incentive saving the town about $10 million.

Prior to the meeting a moment of silence was held for former Town Supervisor John Burke who recently passed away. Burke served as supervisor from 1970-1976.