Town of Oyster Bay officials have unveiled their proposed budget plan for 2020, which features a property tax freeze for the second consecutive year.
The property tax freeze was made possible through “spending restraints, efficiencies and debt reduction initiatives,” according to the Town of Oyster Bay’s official website.
A town previously marred by debt, the property tax freeze is expected to cut down the town debt by $160 million by the end of the year.
“I am proud of the many milestones this administration has reached in returning fiscal stability to the Town of Oyster Bay,” Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino stated. “In partnership with the town board, we have instilled fiscal discipline that has led to responsible budgeting practices for the future of our town.”
In 2018, the Town of Oyster Bay made history by enacting the town’s first property tax cut in two decades. Moreover, the town was able to sustain these cuts through the freezing of property taxes. According to the town press release, “Nearly $4 million will be back in the pockets of residents rather than in the coffers of government. This taxpayer savings is possible due to debt reduction initiatives and internal controls which limit new spending.”
Although taxes are set to remain the same, town costs will see a slight increase within the next year.
“In 2020, the town will face a 1.9 percent increase in costs,” the statement notes. “But taxes will not increase due to strong fiscal management practices. Increased expenses are associated with contractual obligations to the workforce as well as changes in the international commodities market which are driving up recycling costs related to hauling away materials. State-mandated worker’s compensation costs will also rise.”
These plans are all a part of an initiative to decrease town debt and increase efficiency in town spending. The press release noted that the Town of Oyster Bay “borrowed upwards of $100 million a year—even borrowing millions of dollars against future generations to pay for projects not within the town’s jurisdiction.”
The press release further added, “In 2017, the town board and Supervisor Saladino suspended all borrowing for capital projects…this was the first time in town history that not a single dime was borrowed for capital projects. Instead, debt service payments were accelerated and the town is on track to reduce overall debt by $160 million by year’s end.”
It is imperative to note that this has been the town’s largest debt reduction initiative in its 365 year existence. The Town of Oyster Bay is on track to reduce town debt by $30 million with the 2020 proposed budget.
Alongside the tax freeze, the Town of Oyster Bay has put an increased emphasis on the reduction of the town’s workforce. It is estimated that the town has saved nearly $9 million in full-time salaries by reducing the workforce to its lowest level in decades.
“This workforce reduction saves significant dollars in terms of salary and pension costs for this generation and future generations,” the statement reads. “Despite this workforce reduction, the Town of Oyster Bay is delivering better services and at less cost to taxpayers. Additionally, a greater reliance on town employees—and less of a dependence on outside consultants—is saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Moreover, the town seeks to eliminate wasteful spending practices in an effort to achieve savings for taxpayers. The town has sought out the comptroller to “enhance financial controls and institute fiscally-aggressive monitoring practices.” These financial controls will essentially affect the way the government spends money.
“The Department of General Services eliminated the need for outside consultants and has reduced annual expenditures on various contractor services. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being saved annually through the annual installation of LED lighting town-wide, including non-taxpayer-funded conversions at Town Hall North and Town Hall South,” according to the release.
The Department of Public Works has saved money through downsizing. The Parks Department has brought new programs, restaurants and concessions to TOBAY Beach and Tappen Beach, while new playgrounds have been installed in local communities. These upgrades “are the reason revenue is up by more than $1 million,” according to the press release.
Lastly, the budget seeks to restore ethics, honesty, integrity and transparency between citizens and the government.