The North Hempstead Town Board passed a $135.5 million budget that includes no layoffs or service cuts, despite one dissenting vote from a councilwoman who said the 2020 spending plan should have no tax increases at all.
The budget was approved 5-1 on Wednesday, with Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio voting no and Councilwoman Lee Seeman absent.
The budget is a 1.5% increase over the current spending plan. It allocates $69.5 million to the general fund, $38.2 million to the town outside village fund and $27.8 million for 20 town-operated special districts.
The general fund tax levy will increase by 1.2% annually, or an average of $6.31 for property owners. Increases for the outside village fund will be .39%, or an average of $6.93 a year for hamlet homeowners.
Tania Orenstein, the town’s comptroller, said the general fund increase is primarily due to salary increases for union members.
De Giorgio said she had no issue with contractual increases for union employees but objected to using part of the money generated from tax increases to fill eight positions that have been vacant for some time. The town has 24 vacancies.
“The total payroll is about $700,000 plus benefits,” De Giorgio said after the vote. “If those employees haven’t worked here in a significant amount of time, we should’ve found a way not to fill the spots and share their job duties among the existing staff.”
De Giorgio said the town could also have eliminated a discretionary 2% raise for politically appointed staffers and reduced its outside counsel budget by 25%.
“If they had done all those things, they could’ve easily not increased taxes at all, kept the budget flat without sacrificing services and still giving the union employees all of their contractual increases,” she said.
Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the town is in sound financial standing, citing a reduced debt and the town’s Aaa bond rating — the highest a municipality can get from Moody's Investors Service.
“I'm proud that we've earned the Aaa bond rating five times from Moody's,” Bosworth said. “This year's budget continues the fiscal conservative practices while continuing to deliver our essential services to our residents.”
The town has a long-term debt of $174 million and a short-term debt of $8 million. Officials said the town has trimmed the debt by $27.5 million since 2014.