The Hempstead Town Board postponed votes Wednesday to adopt Supervisor Laura Gillen’s tentative budget for 2020 and to transfer more than $5 million from the town's financial reserves to cover unbudgeted salaries and separation payments from 2018.
The five Republican majority board members, joined by Democratic Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, delayed voting on the tentative budget produced by Gillen, a Democrat, until a special meeting at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, saying they had just received the spending plan Wednesday morning and needed time to review it and propose amendments.
Gillen proposed a $438 million budget for 2020, which she said carries a 1.7% tax cut. It would reduce property taxes by $4.5 million and project $6.6 million in additional revenue from sources such as sales and mortgage tax receipts.
Gillen's spending plan would cut taxes by up to $114 a year in some communities, such as Levittown and South Westbury, while keeping taxes flat in others, such as Point Lookout and Lido Beach.
“I didn’t see any shenanigans in delaying the budget until I got here,” said Gillen, who is serving her first term. “Before that, it seemed like it was always a rubber stamp" on prior supervisors' budget proposals.
Last year, town board members postponed adopting Gillen’s proposed $444 million budget, and added about 75 amendments that cut $12 million in spending and offered residents a 3.5% tax cut.
Gillen’s tentative 2020 budget reduces overtime projections by 10 percent and eliminates 55 full-time positions through anticipated retirements. It also includes $3.9 million in anticipated separation pay.
The town board also postponed a vote to draw on $6.9 million from town reserves and to direct $5.2 million to pay for salaries and wages in 18 departments that Gillen staffers said went over their budgets in 2018. The board adjourned the item until Nov. 12, after town elections.
Councilman Anthony D’Esposito said the board wanted to review the figures and said delaying a vote would not hurt the town financially.
Town officials said the $5.2 million in separation payments was not part of the 2018 budget, which accounted for $12 million in anticipated retirement savings but not any separation pay.
The resolution would have directed $856,000 to staffing costs in the parks department, $555,800 toward the water department and $546,900 toward the tax receiver's office.
Receiver of Taxes Donald X. Clavin Jr., a Republican who is running for supervisor, said he was not contacted about any budget irregularities before the meeting.
"This is political grandstanding by the supervisor," Clavin said after the meeting. "When I assume office, I'm eliminating $1 million from the supervisor's payroll."
By state law, Hempstead officials must adopt a budget by Nov. 20.