Plan to hike parking permit fee opposed

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone leads a hearing

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone leads a hearing on the Avalon Bay at a jam-packed meeting at Huntington Town Hall. (May 16, 2011) (Credit: Kevin P Coughlin)

There is wiggle room.

So says Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone about reducing the proposed 1,100 percent permit-fee hike for users of the parking garages at the Huntington Station Long Island Rail Road stop.

But more than two dozen residents at a combined public hearing this week on the town's preliminary $8.6 million capital budget and $181.7 million operating budget sharply opposed the parking-fee increases in the operating plan, calling them "outrageous." That budget projects an $8 million gap, and the parking fees will help make up some of the lost revenue.

After the meeting Tuesday night, Petrone said because the gap is based on projected increases in pension contributions and health insurance and reduced mortgage tax receipts, the numbers are subject to change.

"If my health insurance numbers come in lower, there is wiggle room," Petrone said. "If mortgage-tax receipts change, there is wiggle room."

The operating budget plan calls for a 0.83 percent increase in the town's total tax, about $19 a year for the average homeowner. In addition to the parking-fee hike for the garage that would go from $50 a year to $600, the budget calls for possible layoffs, fare hikes for the Huntington Area Rapid Transit system and higher tipping fees for residential and commercial waste disposal at the town resource recovery facility.

Petrone also said he is "very close" in talks with the union to avoid layoffs.

Various residents called the proposed hikes "outrageous," "ridiculous" and "out of touch."

"Anybody who can put that kind of an increase out as a proposal with a straight face has to really think about what they are doing," Steve Dombrower, of Greenlawn, said of the parking-garage fee increase.

Huntington Station resident Andrew Ferguson said he was concerned that the increase in HART bus fares was being done at a bad time and targeting a vulnerable population.

"May I remind the board that the ridership of HART consists mainly of working-class families, immigrants, elderly, all of whom are on fixed incomes," Ferguson said.

The vote to adopt the budget is expected to happen at the town board meeting on Nov. 7.

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