Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 26 October 2012 00:00The Town of Oyster Bay residents will not have to pay any increase in taxes but they will be paying more in what Town Supervisor John Venditto characterized as “luxury item” fees. That means an increase in such fees as parking, marina costs and possibly golf fees. As we went to press there was no specific information available. There was no increase in taxes in 2011, there was a 3.5 percent increase in taxes for 2012 and there will be no increase in taxes for 2013.
The Town of Oyster Bay held its 2013 budget hearings on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Supervisor John Venditto said, “Since 2008 [as the national economy was taking a hit] I have been dreading this day.” He has been working at least since May to solve his insolvency problems when he declared he needed to cut 220 workers from the payroll. With a $13 million shortfall something had to be done. He said while other municipalities were declaring bankruptcy they were coping.
He said, the very day he became Supervisor in January 1988 the town was in dire straits. He pulled the town out of that quagmire by raising permit fees, saying at that time that they were not consistent with other towns and villages. That is part of his current approach. “We are not raising fees as much as they say. It’s not 110 percent as some have said, but something like 60 percent.”
Mr. Venditto said, “We are raising the fees on the luxuries that we can no longer afford to provide. We are taking many of our fees out of the dark ages to better line them up with others.” Parking fees is one of the areas they will increase. He said, “They sky’s not falling. We are on the way to recover.” He added later, “I am feeling very comfortable with where we are.”
He said the town had had the highest bond rating and said magnificent things have happened in the town, that it has a great infrastructure and that as a result, when things go back to “normal” the town will be in great shape.
He said the town is working with the union and they have gone a long way in making difficult cuts.
A disgruntled Republican called the Enterprise Pilot complaining that the town wanted to reduce the workforce by 220 people while still having well connected workers get union jobs in June and July, such as the sons of Assemblyman Michael Montesano, Massapequa Park Mayor Alfred Altadonna and Bobby Kumar who are now working as bay constables in the Town Safety Division. The Republican claimed the town had 91 retirees from its retirement incentive program but hired about 31 new people.
CSEA Local 881 President Robert Rauff Jr. said, “The hiring freeze was put through in September and he has not hired anyone since and I believe he has stuck to his word. If there are any exempt employees, I am not notified about them. I don’t believe he has,” he added, “No union members have been hired since then.”
Mr. Rauff is very confident that he, the union membership and Mr. Venditto will be able to work out the new accord. He said, “Our consistency working together is proven. He has stuck to his word to continue to meet with us and hopefully we will put something in place for the members to vote on. The membership will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the American Legion Hall in Plainview and at the Italian-American Club in Oyster Bay on Oct. 31.” He said currently they are encouraging members to attend but are not giving out the details of the contract until they meet with the supervisor again. The membership will vote on Nov. 2. The Town Board adopts its budget at their Nov. 13 meeting.
When Supervisor Venditto was asked about the town’s hiring new people in June and July after saying they need to reduce the workforce by 220 jobs, Mr. Venditto commented that he never said he didn’t want to hire more people but that the issue was to address the budget by reducing the payroll and benefits package. The retirement incentive was for people over 55 years of age who had worked with the town for more than five years (which qualifies them for the retirement pension program). The supervisor said when announcing the plan that he didn’t plan to replace those hired but would use existing talent to fill the spots.
Mr. Venditto said he and the union were in “tentative accord” to prevent layoffs. Mr. Venditto said there were no harsh words between he and the union, and that they continue to work as a family, “to try to find a way.” He said the new accord would keep all the workers at fair and reasonable salaries that would assist the town in cutting costs. The union has to vote on the accord, which will happen in early November.
Supervisor Venditto said they had reduced the budget by $25 million with discretionary cuts. The only way to solve the budget crisis is by increasing revenue and lowering expenses, he said. They have made cuts by eliminating part time seasonal workers and their workforce reductions.
He said the proposed accord between the town and the union will add several millions to the town resources, over three years it will mean a savings of $20 million. He said, “In 2013 we will realize some of the savings.”
Supervisor Venditto said, “We have significantly bridged the gap. We’re moving in the right direction.”
He commented, “This too will pass. We are at the mercy of worldwide and regional economic forces. When this is over we will be in great shape.” He offered his own tax bill as an example of people living in the township and said his town taxes are about $1,400 and that, “I spend more on Cablevision, LIPA and about the same on newspapers — in money.”
Mr. Venditto said the town residents understand it takes a certain amount of money to produce this beautiful town. “As long as they [the taxpayers] feel they are getting their bang for the buck, as long as they are getting their services,” he said their prime concern is for Quality of Life. It is their first, second and third priority, he said.
During the evening meeting no one came forward with questions about the budget but at both the morning and evening meetings Mr. Venditto acknowledged that members of the special districts were at the meeting. He complimented them on their service to the community.
At the morning meeting members of the Locust Valley, Jericho and Oyster Bay Water Districts attended. In the evening they returned and a member of the Massapequa Water District attended. Connie Belegrinos of the Massapequa Water District said that they were not increasing their fees. The Oyster Bay and Locust Valley Water Districts are raising their fees 2 percent, staying in line with the NYS tax cap. Richard Niznik, OBWD commissioner said, “We are trying to keep up with the LIPA costs. It takes a lot of electricity to pump water.” The Jericho Water District is not raising their rates.