State audit warns of possible oyster bay injustice


According to a state prosecutor’s audit of the town’s financial position, Oyster Bay’s townboards need to improve supervision after four years of improper management of their cash balances.

“The balance of funds was not properly managed,” the audit said, especially with some funds having deficits, others having surpluses, and the risk of uneven tax burden among taxpayers. Pointed out the town’s practice of being there.

“Most of the money in the special districts of the town is only useful for some of the towns outside the village, so taxpayers may see an increase or decrease depending on them, so the deficit of other funds Tax inequity may result from using the balance of some funds to cover special residential areas, “according to the audit.

“It is difficult for the board to properly manage the town’s financial balance and evaluate alternative approaches to financial problems,” the audit said, as the town does not have a multi-year financial plan.

The state prosecutor’s office audits municipalities every few years. Islay McCracken, chief examiner of the Board of Audit’s office, said the audit focused on the balance of funds because risk assessment was “the most risky area.”

Released in September, the 2016-2019 audit was the first state prosecutor’s audit since 2013, for Joseph Saladino, a supervisor appointed in January 2017 after John Venditto’s resignation. It was my first audit. Venditte, who was found innocent on federal corruption charges but pleaded guilty to state corruption charges, died in March.

Robert Darienzo, Oysterbay’s finance director in that position under Venditte and Saladino, said the focus should be on the overall financial situation, not on individual funds.

“Globally we are improving the city’s finances,” said Darienzo, pointing out the overall surplus and recent bond rating upgrades. “I’m not going to put all the money exactly into the dollars I need, but I’ve reached that point.”

In 2019, Saladino said, “I am very proud to report that the operating budget deficit has disappeared.”

“There is no more deficit in the operating budget of the town of Oyster Bay,” he said at a townboard meeting on April 16, 2019, according to records.

However, the town’s audited financial report shows that three funds were in short supply to end 2018, and by the end of 2019, the deficit of two of them had increased even if one was eliminated.

The town taxes dozens of property, but not all taxes apply to all property. Only general fund taxation has hit real estate owners throughout the town. Other taxes, including planning departments, waste collection, solid waste disposal, lighting, public parking, highways funding wastewater, and “part towns”, are levied on most private land in the unincorporated part of the town. Can be done. Park and fire protection area collections are for specific geographic areas.

When the town announces taxes on its annual budget, that number combines 28 taxes that are fully controlled by the town’s board, excluding other water districts with a semi-autonomous governing structure. Taxation How tax increases, reductions, and freezes affect individual real estate owners depends on the resident.

Saladino’s first budget cut town taxes by 0.5% in 2018, but some real estate owners saw their taxes go up. For example, county records show that town taxes on Massapequa housing in Venditto increased from $ 2,157 in the previous year to $ 2,258, 4.6% in 2018. In contrast, the town tax on Saladino’s homes elsewhere in Masapika fell from $ 1,918 in 2017 to $ 1,831 in 2018, down 4.5%, county records show. The valuations of neither property did not change during these years.

The reason for this difference was the significant increase in taxation on the town’s garbage collection in 2018, which affected Vendit’s property but not Saladino’s property.

Taxation may appear to be out of sync with the performance of the corresponding funds. According to the town’s financial records, Saladino’s 2018 and 2019 budgets have reduced taxation in solid waste disposal areas, despite the growing deficit of the fund, 6.9 million at the end of 2019. Reached the dollar. The town’s highway fund finished 2018 and 2019, with surplus reaching $ 6.1 million, but the 2020 budget raised the town’s highway tax.

The Park Fund has consistently been in the black, but the town is reducing and raising taxes on certain park areas. For example, the tax amount for the Oyster Bay Hamlet Park area increased 160% from $ 460,196 in 2017 to $ 1.2 million in the budget adopted in 2020.

Darienzo said he wasn’t ready to talk about the Oyster Bay Park area.

“You wouldn’t have imagined we were talking about less than $ 1 million in a $ 300 million budget,” said Darienzo. “I don’t know why it’s a concern for anyone, but overall, raising money where it’s needed is a priority.”

He said he didn’t know how the fund would work when the town created a budget that had to be hired by November each year.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” said Darienzo. “I don’t know where all the money will land every year,” he said.

Audits pointed out that the town’s public parking fund has also been in the red for the past four years despite increased parking revenue.

“The town was unable to maintain the trend of surplus management of this fund,” the audit said. “Rather, inaccurate estimates of parking fees (lots, garages, meters) and salary costs continue to exacerbate the fund’s deficit position.”

The audit recommended that the Town Board adopt a formal funding policy and develop reserves and a multi-year financial plan.

Darienzo said the formal fund policy was “in the conversation stage … nothing was written.”

Darienzo says the town isn’t in a hurry to make a multi-year financial plan. “I don’t see the need at this point,” he said. “I’m going to do the best for us. I’m not going to do the best for the state controller’s office.”

He added that the surplus of the fund is unlikely to be immediately removed as a reserve.

“I want to fix all the money and make everything profitable,” said Darienzo. “It would be wise to discuss the idea of ​​setting aside preparations only when we are on solid ground with any fund.”

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