The new Republican administration of a cash-strapped Long Island town is highlighting alleged wasteful spending by its Democratic predecessors -- including thousands spent last year on washing and cleaning street sweepers.
New Islip, N.Y. supervisor Tom Croci and his Republican town board members charged Thursday that the town paid more than $3,500 last year to hand wash and detail street sweep vehicles before sending them back out to get dirty again.
The expense, they said, was particularly wasteful as the town faces a $26 million budget shortfall in 2013.
"We need a culture that watches every penny like you do in your house," said Croci.
The lawmakers displayed the public works vehicles on Thursday, as some Islip residents looked on. One woman called the street sweeper expense " a drop in the bucket" in a town budget of more than $80 million.
Former Islip supervisor Phil Nolan called the Republican claims "silly."
"The truth is, on my watch, we saved $60 million," Nolan said.
The former supervisor defended the street sweeper maintenance plan, arguing that the cleaning and detailing helped preserve the life of vehicles worth more than $300,000.
Islip's Budget Task Force did acknowledge that "economic forces beyond town hall's control significantly shaped the town's fiscal health. Resources have been battered .... as the recession diminished property values, forced home foreclosures and curtailed home sales."
All the political rhetoric and finger-pointing didn't sit well with some in the lunch crowd at Islip's popular Oconee East Diner, just down the road from town hall.
"That sounds like a broken record," said Joseph Chiaramonte.
"I hate the back and forth because sometimes you don't get down to the nitty-gritty," said Joe Figliozzi.
While detailing the budget problems, Islip lawmakers did not provide solutions Thursday, stressing that the search for answers is ongoing.
Neither tax increases nor layoffs were ruled out, although one lawmaker called both "last resorts."
"A lot of people nowadays don't have money for taxes," said diner Angela Chiaramonte. "The money's not there. You can't get blood from a stone."
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