Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino introduced his first budget since taking office as Supervisor just eight months ago. The 2018 Proposed Budget reduces by $2 million non-mandated spending, implements real structural reforms, creates an Office of Inspector General to restore the public’s trust, reduces debt by $50 million and cuts property taxes by $1.3 million through participation in Governor Cuomo’s Shared Services Initiative. While there is a reduction in non-mandated spending which is under the Town’s control, the reality is that this reduction is offset by mandated debt service payments and State-mandated employee healthcare and pension contributions.
Supervisor Saladino stated, “My administration has instilled fiscal discipline that has led to responsible budgeting choices for the future of our residents. I am happy to report that our finances are now headed in the right direction thanks to greater efficiencies, cost savings initiatives and innovative programs designed to better serve residents and save taxpayers money. The 2018 Proposed Budget holds each and every department accountable for their budget and cuts property taxes by participating in Governor Cuomo’s shared services initiative. While fiscal challenges remain, we can and will continue to provide an affordable government for taxpayers while making the Town an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”
WORKFORCE SAVINGS & REAL STRUCTURAL REFORMS
The 2018 Proposed Budget includes a savings of $3 million in full-time salaries when compared to 2017 due to the elimination of two dozen positions. This reduction in the workforce saves this generation and future generations significant dollars through reduced pension and healthcare costs. The Saladino administration has successfully reduced the workforce to the lowest level in decades. The full-time workforce for 2018 has been reduced from a high of 1,250 employees nearly five years ago to 999 employees. The Town anticipates hiring additional seasonal employees to help reduce overtime and workers compensation expenses in the Sanitation division. In fact, overtime will be reduced by just under $1 million as compared to 2017. Additionally, a greater reliance on Town employees – and lesser dependence on outside consultants – is saving taxpayers $400,000 in this budget.
The 2018 Proposed Budget includes real, structural reforms to the way in which the Town budgets workforce expenses. The past administration amortized approximately $20 million in New York State Retirement payments over the past six years; however, the Town will not amortize the allowable portion of its retirement system bill in 2018. Additionally, the Town will no longer reallocate salary and related expenses from its Operating Budget to Capital. Although this practice was used by the prior administration to reduce fiscal stress on the Operating Budget over the past five years, this practice will no longer take place.
CUTTING WASTEFUL SPENDING
Together with the Town Board, the Saladino administration continues to root out wasteful spending and achieve savings for taxpayers. In the General Services Department, a myriad of changes has resulted in greater efficiency and significant cost savings. The department eliminated the need for an outside consultant – saving $40,000 annually and has reduced annual expenditures by over 10% on all contractor services – some much higher. Additionally, $500,000 in cost-savings is being achieved through the installation of LED lighting town-wide. An additional $400,000 in savings is being achieved through the elimination of leased space. Instead, town facilities are being utilized!
In the Department of Public Works, operations have been streamlined through staffing reductions and shared services – keeping more engineering projects in-house. The department has implemented significant cost-cutting measures while still delivering the type of first-class services residents have come to expect from the Town. Sanitation and Recycling have been combined into a single division and routes were consolidated to maximize the efficiency of personnel. Several employees were re-assigned to fill a need in other departments. This month, the Town will transition to single stream recycling while reducing the cost of municipal solid waste and increasing the items we are now able to recycle. This initiative is estimated to generate $2 million for taxpayers over the next five years. Since the beginning of local efforts more than two decades ago, recycling has cost taxpayers money rather than generate funds for the Town budget. That will no longer be the case!
In the Town Attorney’s office, outside legal fees have been reduced by utilizing experienced, specialized attorneys in-house. That said, specialized outside counsel will always be necessary. In this vein, the Town has protected residents by commencing action against the companies potentially responsible for disrepair at the Hicksville Long Island Rail Road garage and a prominent law firm, a former concessionaire and a former Deputy Town Attorney who appear to have taken advantage.
In the Town Clerk’s Office, James Altadonna, Jr. has taken a lead in reducing payroll costs and working diligently to post all forms online to better serve residents and expedite transactions. The Town Receiver of Taxes, James Stefanich, made technological advancements which expedite the work of his office, reduce operating costs and improve overall resident satisfaction.
In the Parks Department, new concessionaires have been selected for TOBAY Beach, Tappen Beach and the Town’s golf course in an unprecedented two-day public hearing that allowed residents to have input and witness all deliberations. Under the new agreements, the Town collects five times the revenue previously received and a significant upgrade is provided to residents in terms of service, aesthetics, offerings and price. This additional revenue is contained in the 2018 Proposed Budget. Aside from three brand new waterfront dining options at TOBAY Beach, the venue features many improvements including a renovated spray park, protective sun shades, new playground, free Wi-Fi service and increased accessibility to the beach for people of all abilities. Other improvements can be enjoyed at Town tennis courts and at community pools, where brand new chaise lounge chairs, tables, umbrellas and sun shades are now available.
The Saladino administration continues to do everything possible to side with taxpayers, and that includes the removal of take-home vehicles from Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners and higher level employees. Residents drive their own vehicles to work each day, and so should Town workers. Together with the Town Board, the administration will continue to take the necessary steps to right-size government and seek savings in every corner of the Town.
SHARED SERVICES – SAVING YOU MONEY!
The Town of Oyster Bay recently participated in Governor Cuomo’s Countywide Shared Services Initiative which encourages local governments to find efficiencies for real, recurring savings and reduce property taxes. In partnership with nine municipalities, a plan was developed to save taxpayers $1.79 million. The 2018 Proposed Budget builds upon successful shared services initiatives which save taxpayer money. In an effort to save Town taxpayers $2 million recurring annually, the 2018 Proposed Budget includes a new Shared Services initiative in which nearly two dozen Public Safety Officers will be transferred to the County of Nassau. Upon transfer, the Town would immediately achieve savings from employee salaries and fringe benefits. These employees will help bolster the ranks of the Nassau County Department of Public Safety – which currently has vacancies – and help achieve overtime savings for the County. Additionally, the County will patrol Town facilities to help maintain the same level of service while saving taxpayers money. The Town Parks Department will absorb other employees from the Town Department of Public Safety, including Bay Constables.
TACKLING TOWN DEBT
The prior administration racked up debts that will continue to plague taxpayers for generations to come. The fact is, the Town historically borrowed up to $100 million a year for capital projects. The Saladino administration reversed this trend in 2017 by not borrowing a single dime for capital projects – the first time in history the Town accomplished such a goal! In cooperation with the Town Board, Supervisor Saladino accelerated debt service payments and is on track to reduce the Town’s overall debt by $85 million, or 11%, by year’s end. This is the largest debt reduction in the town’s 364 year history. Debt service payments in the Proposed Budget are estimated to help decrease the Town’s total debt by an additional $50 million in 2018. The total outstanding debt for Town purposes would drop from $763 million to $628 million over this two year period, a decrease of 21.5%.
RESTORING ETHICS, HONESTY, INTEGRITY & TRANSPARENCY
Supervisor Saladino has worked tirelessly to deliver important services and restore the public’s trust in government. To accomplish just that, the Town Board took swift action to install a new, independent Board of Ethics with real and meaningful oversight. The Town has instituted disclosure requirements for contractors, vendors and high level employees to prevent conflicts of interest and improprieties. Additionally, a former Federal prosecutor was appointed to serve as Town Attorney and employees – as well as elected officials – have been mandated to attend an ethics training seminar.
Sunlight was needed, and the Town Board and Supervisor Saladino shed light on all town functions. To enhance transparency, the Town enhanced live-streaming of town board meetings and work sessions so that the public may view these meetings from the comfort of their own home. These reforms were long overdue and the good-government organization, Reclaim New York, recognized the Town for these accomplishments. The Town is the first government in New York State to partner with Reclaim New York to proactively improve transparency and provide residents unprecedented access to government.
Building upon these initiatives to restore ethics, honesty, integrity and transparency, the 2018 Proposed Budget includes funding for a new Office of Inspector General. The Inspector General will be charged with standardizing the Town’s purchasing and contract administration; monitoring compliance with all applicable procurement guideline policies, and requirements of federal, state and local laws; providing technical expertise to ensure all contracts, requests for proposals and bid solicitations are posted on the Town’s website, and expanding the Town’s access to municipal and state electronic systems to verify the qualifications and standing of potential contractors. The Inspector General will have the authority to examine the records of all Town departments, and make any financial examinations as he or she may deem to be best for the Town. The Inspector General will also have full authority to examine the workings of each department and all Town accounts, and will report their findings to the Town Board as well as work closely with the Board of Ethics. The position will also have subpoena power.
GRUMMAN NAVY PLUME
Building off the landmark legislation passed in the State Assembly, Supervisor Saladino has compelled Grumman to test Bethpage Community Park ballfields for radioactive and radiological materials along with 1, 4 dioxane and many other unregulated contaminates. Grumman and the Navy created an environmental catastrophe, and they, along with all those in the Federal and State government, must be laser-focused in cleaning up the mess left behind. For that reason, the Town has retained a nationally-recognized law firm and will seek damages from Grumman for the costs of full remediation. Local taxpayers should not be forced to bear the financial burden of a cleanup and neither should the 2018 Proposed Budget.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION
The 2018 Proposed Budget merges the Department of Economic Development into the Supervisor’s Office to accomplish greater success when it comes to job creation. Recently, the Town successfully won $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds from Governor Cuomo and the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council for downtown revitalization in Hicksville. Hicksville’s downtown is a prime location for revitalization, new jobs and new housing opportunities. These economic development funds will help transform downtown Hicksville into an attractive, walkable and bicycle-friendly environment.
WE ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK!
In a short period of time, Supervisor Saladino and the Town Board have taken on fiscal challenges of historic proportions and have moved forward by implementing spending reductions and landmark reforms that together have laid the groundwork for the future. The Town of Oyster Bay’s fiscal problems developed over decades and are being addressed responsibly.
CLICK HERE to view the 2018 Preliminary Budget.