By Andrew Wroblewski
The Huntington town board has approved a $189 million operating budget for 2016, slightly reducing overall spending and remaining within the state’s tax cap. The board also approved a $15 million capital budget focused on town infrastructure.
“This was a difficult budget to put together, given the limitations of the tax cap and increases in costs such as health insurance,” Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said in a statement. “But I am pleased that we were able to maintain services and programs our residents want and have come to expect.”
The $188,663,991 operating budget, which was proposed in September by Petrone and approved 4-1 during the board’s Nov. 5 meeting, contains no new initiatives, but does build on those started in 2015, including construction of Sweet Hollow and Burrs Lane parks, and design and initial construction for the James D. Conte Community Center, formerly the Huntington Armory.
Overall spending is projected to decrease by 0.2 percent, but the budget does call for a $1.9 million increase in funding for the town’s Highway Department budget, due to costs accrued through last winter’s severe weather. The increase was offset was decreasing spending in some of the town’s special districts, such as Commack Ambulance, Huntington Community Ambulance, Huntington Sewer and the Dix Hills Water District.
There will be a 1.3-percent increase in the overall property tax levy, resulting in an increase of $29.16 for the average homeowner when looking at the general, highway and refuse funds. The levy is increasing despite a slight overall decrease in spending because of a decrease in use of town reserves to fund operations.
There is a salary freeze for all elected officials and appointed and management personnel. At its Nov. 5 meeting, the town board approved a management plan outlining benefits for appointed and management personnel and setting parameters for items such as leave time and medical contributions.
The $15 million capital budget, also approved 4-1, focuses on rehabilitation of various plants and pump stations in the Dix Hills Water District, improvements in the Huntington Sewer District and provides funding for road rehabilitation, drainage infrastructure and paving.
Huntington Councilman Eugene Cook was the lone dissenter on both budgets. Cook said during the Nov. 5 meeting that he opposed the town’s budget, as he has done for the last three years, because “I don’t want bonding and I don’t want tax increases.”