Officials react to budget task force plan

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A day after two Huntington board members demanded more responsibility from elected officials to help close an $8 million budget gap, documents show the town's highway chief recently spent $62,974 on SUVs for himself and a deputy.

Highway Superintendent William Naughton said Tuesday he was legally entitled to buy the two new vehicles and did nothing wrong. The revelation comes after Monday's announcement by board members Mark Mayoka and Gene Cook that they have reactivated the Huntington Budget Task Force to devise cost-saving alternatives for the 2013 budget plan. Reviving the task force, last active in the 1990s, did not require town board or supervisor approval, Mayoka and Cook added.

They want to reduce or eliminate proposed parking fee hikes, especially at Huntington Station's Long Island Rail Road stop's garages, where rates would go from $50 to $600 a year. Mayoka and Cook would also halt personal use of town-owned cars, cut proposed town board raises, reduce members' salaries by 10 percent, control special reserves spending and require a supermajority vote for it.

Mayoka and Cook invited town Supervisor Frank Petrone and board members Mark Cuthbertson and Susan Berland to appoint qualified representatives to the task force.

"We need everyone's help in finding ways to save taxpayer money and minimize the impact of increased fees," Mayoka said.

Petrone declined to comment. Cuthbertson argued that the job of a town board member is to make tough decisions, and that there is no need for a "buffer" committee to help them.

Berland said Tuesday she has no intention of appointing a representative to the "pretend" task force.

"It's my job to do a budget analysis based on the supervisor's preliminary budget and I am not going to delegate that authority," Berland said.

Mayoka said Tuesday he was disappointed, but "the door is always open."

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Naughton said he bought the two 2013 Ford Explorers for himself and Deputy Superintendent Pat Irving to replace older vehicles. He said the task force's proposed call to abolish use of town-owned cars for personal use for some employees would be subject to union negotiations. "You just can't change that," he said.

The proposed 2013 highway budget is $34,422,596, up from $34,319,221 for 2012.

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