By Carl Corry
Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone has proposed a near $189 million budget for 2016 that slightly reduces spending while increasing the tax levy by 1.3 percent, below the state’s tax cap.
The proposal calls for no new initiatives, but follows through on plans started in 2015, including the construction of Sweet Hollow and Burrs Lane parks, and the design and initial construction for the James D. Conte Community Center at the former Huntington Armory.
While overall spending will decrease by .2 percent, Petrone is proposing a $1.9 million increase for the highway department to prepare for potentially severe winter weather like the region had this past year. That increase is offset by a reduction in spending in special districts, such as Commack Ambulance, Huntington Community Ambulance, Huntington Sewer and the Dix Hills Water District.
The $188,663,991 budget proposal freezes salaries for all elected officials and appointed and management personnel. Petrone also said he will present a management plan that will outline various benefits and set parameters for items such as leave time and medication contributions.
Petrone’s plan foresees a reduction of fewer than five staff members through attrition. Earlier in the budget process, however, the town was considering layoffs. Instead, he was able to work with certain programs a little differently and pension costs came in lower than expected. The town has 700 employees.
The tax levy would increase 1.3 percent despite a slight overall decrease in spending because the town would pull less from reserves to find operations. The increase for the average homeowner is projected to be $29.16.
A proposed $15 million capital budget focuses on improving to the town’s infrastructure such as rehabilitation of various plants and pump stations in the Dix Hills Water District to headworks improvements in the Huntington Sewer District. Funding is also included for road rehabilitation, drainage infrastructure and paving.
Petrone said he had hoped to renew open space land acts and move ahead with establishing a parking district for Huntington village, but those moves would have required public referenda that would have to be added to the budget, in forcing the town to pierce the state tax cap. He said he will be lobbying Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state lawmakers for changes to the Tax Cap Act so that exceptions can be made for voter-supported referenda and has reached out to other municipalities around Long Island to wrangle their support.
“It’s probably our biggest concern this year – the tax cap,” he said.