Town of Oyster Bay residents enraged by tax hikes of 8 percent in 2014 and 2015 had better buckle up—last week the town board passed a 2017 budget with a 11.5 percent property tax levy hike.
The hike, according to town finance director Robert Darienzo, will increase the average homeowner’s yearly tax bill by about $170 and is expected to raise $24.1 million for the financially troubled town. Supervisor John Venditto, making his first public appearance since his arrest for bribery and other charges last month, said this financial maneuver is the only way to heal the town’s dire financial wounds.
“We have a financial problem, but it is fixable,” he said.
The tax-paying public, however, responded with venom, stating that covering for the mistakes of elected officials has grown tiresome.
“This is the kind of news that makes you want to pack up and leave town,” said Ronald Margiotta. “Taxes are already outrageous across Nassau County. An 11 percent tax hike is ridiculous. When does it stop?”
“And where exactly are our tax dollars going?” asked Tricia N. of Plainview. “Into the pockets of those involved in the [Harendra] Singh scandal?”
In September, Venditto proposed a $284.1 million budget that would have stayed within the property tax cap, however, Darienzo told the board that “a failure to pierce the cap today will only exacerbate the problem in 2017 and increase interest costs and require a considerably higher tax increase in the 2018 budget.”
According to records, the town has more than $700 million in debt and any interest it pays has gone up since Standard & Poor’s downgraded its credit rating to junk bond status in April.
Reclaim New York, an advocacy group that won a court case against the town over the improper denial of transparency requests, said that the town’s “last minute budgeting, under a cloud of corruption, means that taxpayers will be looted for a third time in just four years.”
“Town officials once again put themselves before their constituents,” said a representative from Reclaim. “People simply can’t afford to pay for the town’s continued scandals, wasteful spending, and total lack of planning. They need transparency and accountability now, not the pattern of deception they’re getting from officials who didn’t even want to show how they spend taxpayer dollars.”
The town board voted six to one to approve the budget, with Councilman Joseph Pinto being the lone opposing vote.