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Supervisor: Islip Town's a 'Sinking Ship' Financially

Administration seeks input from residents on how to get back on a sound fiscal path.

Islip Supervisor Tom Croci doesn’t believe in sugar coating when it comes to the fiscal crisis facing the town and its residents.

Words like “precarious,” phrases such as “sinking ship” and “no magic bullet” come freely when he discusses how his administration views the $26 million deficit inherited when they took office this past January.

In what is very likely a precursor of a special budget hearing slated for Thursday at Town Hall, Croci told a local civic association that there is “no way to cut our way out,” referring to more budget and salary cuts and that the focus must be on “building our way out,” by encouraging more business growth, expanding MacArthur Airport and making it easier for builders to develop vacant parcels.

“Simply, we can’t afford the lifestyle we’ve been living and we’ve been living off surplus funds for two decades to have that lifestyle,” he told members of the Bayport Civic Association Tuesday night.

Noting that the former administration used $20 million of surplus funds last year to avoid service cuts and tax increases, Croci said there is just $9 million left in the reserve fund.

“And we can’t balance the budget on that."

Croci, along with town councilpersons John Cochrane and Anthony Senft, spent nearly a half hour answering BCA member questions and asking for ideas on how town leaders should solve the financial challenges.

In clear terms he said parks and beaches are in danger of being closed and services will likely take a huge hit in order to get fiscally sound.

“If a tree falls you’re going to be waiting quite awhile for a town worker to come by and take care of it,” Croci said.

He asked residents a simple, yet complex, question: “What kind of town do you want?”

“We need to right the ship, and keep the water from flooding in to avoid sinking,” said the former Naval officer. “There are two choices: we can keep kicking the can down the street, like the former administration, or we can fix it.”

Audience responses ranged from suggestions on getting better investment opportunities with financial institutions handling the Islip’s funds, to potential tax increases necessary to balance the budget and lowering school taxes, through consolidation, to offset increased town taxes.

Croci said estimates indicate that a $15 to $18 monthly homeowner tax increase would be needed for balancing the budget at this point.

The supervisor said the financial issues are the result of years of spending while revenue remained stagnant and related a story regarding a homeowner’s tax bill.

“In 1984 this homeowner had a tax bill of $314," he said. "That’s simply the tax given to the town, not the school tax or other taxes people pay. In 2012 that same homeowner’s tax portion was actually $311. It actually went down,” he said. 

Yet, in the same timeframe, most town costs, such as employee retirement for example, jumped by millions, he noted.

“We’re at the point of substantially cutting services or boosting taxes,” Councilman Senft said. 

Thurday's special budget hearing begins at 2 p.m. at Islip Town Hall.

Resident September 19, 2012 at 05:54 PM
What a joke. Make it easier for residents to develop their land, and therefore, increase tax revenue. The ZBA and entire permit process is more of a joke now that Croci took office. Let's instead make ".. it easier for builders to develop vacant parcels". Good going Croci. Wish these guys knew what went on in the offices they run.
Ed Horcrantz September 22, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Tom Croci and his VERY WEALTHY Part Time Town Board members receive NYSHIP Empire Plan health insurance for free! Do you? They pay nothing for the policy that costs Islip town Residents $19,000 a year! John Cocrane owns his own business, so does Steve Flotteron, so does Anthony Sneph, so does Tom Croci and so does Trish Bergins husband Randy. Can the middle class struggling residents of Islip afford to pay these premiums?
Greg Fischer September 26, 2012 at 03:16 PM
So how did Islip get to this point and what can they do to reverse the trend? (Hint: support my appeal the NYS's highest court to have LIPA Trustees elected --- and cut power costs thereafter.) Over 100 lawyers helped get the MTA tax repealed, why am I doing this battle alone? Other towns could get big increases too if we don't wake the politicians up, Greg Fischer perfect100@hotmail.com
Sidney Beane September 26, 2012 at 03:47 PM
The Town could easily lose 30% of their full time work force & still maintain essential services. The fact that Croci claims they can't is a flat out lie & a scare tactic. Go to the Ronkonkoma Recreation Center parking lot & see how many Parks employees are laying on benches or sleeping in their trucks. Visit various Town buildings and witness 1-day work orders take 3-days. These men & women know how to cheat the system & you are paying for it. There is no need to raise taxes no matter how they twist the facts.

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