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Islip Adopts Budget With 28 Percent Town Tax Hike, 22 Layoffs

Board slashes $8 million from preliminary spending plan and approves $111 million 2013 budget Monday.

The Islip Town Board approved a $111 million budget, which includes a 28 percent increase in Town taxes, at a special meeting Monday afternoon. 

The 2013 budget was cut by $8 million following a public backlash against a preliminary budget that had called for a 65-percent hike in Town taxes. 

The reduced budget eliminates 22 full-time positions in the Town, including seven from the public safety department, four from the Town's shellfish hatchery in East Islip and two from the the Town's Assessor's Office. 

The Town's Harbor Patrol is also being eliminated, a move that will result in eight layoffs and a savings of about $700,000. 

"We recognize that this is a choice between bad and worse and we recognize that this will cause some discomfort to our residents," said Councilman Anthony Senft before the all-Republican board voted 4-0 (Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt was absent due to a death in the family) to approve the $111 million budget, which represents a 7.6 percent decrease from the 2012 budget. 

The average resident (with a home assessed at $400,000) will pay about $8 more a month (or $96 a year) in Town taxes under the approved budget, according to Town Supervisor Tom Croci, who has pinned the blame for a $26 million deficit in the Town on his predecessor Phil Nolan. 

"The position this town was placed in is unconscionable," said Croci, who has said Nolan spent money from the Town's savings account–or fund balance–over several years to avoid tax increases.  

"You are right to be concerned, you are right to be agitated," Croci told an overflow crowd of mostly seniors during a two-hour public hearing before the budget vote. 

Several residents made reference to Croci's campaign platform of lowering Town taxes.  

"I am not happy with this board and the supervisor’s actions so far that I have seen," said Mark Malenovsky, of Sayville. "From what I was told and I was promised through the campaign, this is not what I expected and I expect better from you."

The average Islip resident currently pays $311 in Town taxes, a small fraction of a resident's total tax bill and a figure officials have said is lower than it was in 1985. But most of the residents who spoke Monday had quite a simple message for the board. 

"We cannot afford to live here anymore," said Michael Goldberg, 68, of Ronkonkoma, drawing applause from the audience. "We are at the point where we pay our bills or eat meals."

Board members said the preliminary budget was cut in numerous areas in order to trim it from $119 million to $111 million. 

The hatchery will be shut down at a total savings of $655,000. Officials said it was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and the board would look into privatizing the hatchery. The Town's Marina Guard Program, which had employed dozens of seasonal part-time workers, is also being eliminated at a savings of $515,000. The Town will also save $1.6 million by not filling open positions in 2013. 

On the revenue side, the Town expects to bring in $9.2 million more next year, namely from the sale of unused Town land and ramping up enforcement of various violations and charging higher fees for everything from building permits to mooring fees at the Town's marinas. Senft said the Town's Planning Department fees have not increased since 1996. 

The preliminary budget, with its glaring 65 percent tax hike, did not include any layoffs beyond the 47 that were made earlier this year when the board voted to eliminate the Town's Human Services department. The approved budget will put 22 people out of work. 

"You don't sleep," Senft said when asked about the layoffs. "You think about it day in and day out. It's overwhelming difficult to talk about laying somebody off because we know these people.  We see them day in and day out. We have developed relationships with them."

Croci said the adopted budget required the board "to get out of our comfort zone and for us to move forward in a way that preserves the ability of the resident to get the service from the Town and doesn't hurt the employee and we've tried to do that as much as possible."

Trish Bergin November 23, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Chairman Tantone- I think Mark West needs to pray that he NEVER experiences ME firsthand. His comments are unbelievable and a complete disrespect for another human being. I got into government because I wanted to help people. I never expected this. Mr. West you have introduced me to a new low that I honestly never thought I would see in people. I do hope God helps you to find kindness in your heart, because it is clear that your core is rotten. Thank you to everyone else for your well wishes for my family during these difficult times. My Best-Trish Bergin
Ed Horcrantz November 24, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Councilwoman Bergin. Firstallow me to offer my condolences. I too lost a sister. A younger sister. I know what your going through. Believe me, I do. As for Mr West, perhaps he did not know that you were mourning the death of your sister. I do hope that is the case. However, you are an elected official, and as my representative, you work for We The People.....Not Chairman Tantone. Let Tantone and Schettino dispaly their partisan bitterness to the person known as Mark West. You should let your partys leadership fight the political battles. You should take the weekend and mourn the loss of your sister and let the politicians act like babies. After all, politics and the death of a family member have absolutely nothing in common. Again....I offer my condolences and wish you and your family peace and a joyfull Holiday Season!
Rosanne November 24, 2012 at 02:07 AM
I left a message for the board prior to this meeting. Having these sessions at 2:00 in the afternoon keeps many of us out in the cold. I thank all the people that were able to go and represent our interests. By the way, I never got a return call.
Hiram Walkers November 24, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Well said Mr. Horcrantz........It's amazing how unprofessional these people ( all including the Chairman of the Islip GOP) are acting. Stick to the issue and the politics. Tom Croci is blaming Phil Nolan for the tax increase. The voting public is smarter than you think Mr. Croci. Try another excuse. As Trish Bergins post: "5:25 pm on Friday, November 23, 2012 Chairman Tantone- I think Mark West needs to pray that he NEVER experiences ME firsthand. His comments are unbelievable and a complete disrespect for another human being. I got into government because I wanted to help people. I never expected this. Mr. West you have introduced me to a new low that I honestly never thought I would see in people. I do hope God helps you to find kindness in your heart, because it is clear that your core is rotten. Thank you to everyone else for your well wishes for my family during these difficult times. My Best-Trish Bergin Hmmm.....what does Ms. Bergin mean by her rant? "NEVER experiences ME firsthand". Isn't she an elected official? She should have took the high road and remained silent.
Mamaof2 December 12, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Well yesterday was the town meeting and they cut 35 positions including the Harbor Police. Croci said they were Luxury items. Sorry but I didnt realize that saving lives on the Great SOuth Bay was a Luxury Item!! They are making a huge mistake if they think the understaffed SCPD Marine Bureau will be able to cover this huge body of water. SCPD covers all the way to Riverhead so I hope your boat isnt sinking when they are out there!! SHAME on the TOWN OF ISLIP!!!!!! And sneaky for holding a town meeting at 2:00 in the afternoon!!! A petition was started on change.org! http://www.change.org/petitions/town-of-islip-reverse-the-decision-of-laying-off-four-full-time-bay-constables

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