Amid storm and cleanup, public not heard from at morning budget meeting


Town leaders throughout Suffolk County are weathering conditions and holding 2013 budget hearings. Despite damage done by two recent storms, they said they expect to approve the spending plans by the Nov. 20 state deadline.

At Brookhaven's public hearing Thursday, hundreds of people in the packed Town Hall auditorium spoke largely against layoffs in the proposed $247 million budget.

Several board members have introduced resolutions to restore staffing and programs to various departments. Craig Lucas, a building inspector and union steward, pointed out the building department is still slated to lose six full-time jobs. "We don't get much respect. We're like a stepchild," he said. "The backbone of this town is the workers. If you mess around with the backbone, you paralyze the town."

In Islip and Babylon Thursday, no one from the public spoke for or against the proposed budgets. In contrast, dozens of residents criticized Islip's board at a series of previous board meetings for a proposed 65 percent tax hike.

During Islip's 10-minute public hearing Thursday, town officials said they are still looking for ways to decrease the proposed $118.9 million operating budget. Town board members will likely introduce amendments to the proposed spending plan at next Tuesday's town board meeting.

"Our residents are hurting," Supervisor Tom Croci said. "Many of them are in very dire straits. I think we need to get down to the bare minimum before we inflict any more pain."

Babylon officials expect to vote on their budget next week. The proposed $128.6 million budget includes a tax increase but no cuts to services. Taxes would rise 1.7 percent, within the state's tax cap.

Across the East End, town officials are also tweaking their proposed budgets in time to adopt them on or before Nov. 20.

In Riverhead, a final hearing is being planned for Nov. 14. On Shelter Island, Supervisor Jim Dougherty still has to trim $7,406 from his $10 million budget to meet the state's cap. The town board could vote to adopt the budget at its regular meeting Friday.

In East Hampton, which held a public hearing on the town's proposed $69 million budget last week, officials expect to finalize the plan at the town work session on Tuesday, and to adopt it at their meeting Thursday.

Southold officials held a public hearing on their proposed $40 million budget on Wednesday. They say no substantial changes are planned, and the town board should vote on the budget Nov. 20. Southampton held its third public hearing on the proposed $82 million town budget last night, and town officials say several amendments are likely to be proposed before it is adopted.

With Nicole Fuller, Denise M. Bonilla, Mitchell Freedman and Sophia Chang