Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino issued a State of the Town report Wednesday — the first in the 372-year existence of the country’s largest township — that cited accomplishments in the first eight months of his administration and laid out his vision for the future.
“It was time to do so,” Santino said of giving the annual speech that’s common in several other towns.
At the top of his list of achievements was slashing $9 million from the town’s $436.1 million 2016 budget. The decrease was achieved by aggressively controlling costs while maintaining services. “The best services at the lowest possible cost is my commitment to residents and my challenge to department managers,” Santino said in his speech.
He cited cost-saving efforts including an “across-the-board cut of 20 percent in departmental discretionary spending,” more efficient use of personnel, re-designing sanitation collection routes, and privatizing some municipal operations.
Small changes also had big results, Santino said, including saving $500,000 by publishing municipal public notices on the town’s websites instead of in several weekly newspapers, and saving $2 million this year from converting 50,000 conventional street lamps to high-efficiency LED fixtures.
“By carefully managing costs ... we can keep the tax burden borne by homeowners and businesses to a minimum,” Santino said.
Savings in personnel expenses included offering early retirement incentives, slashing overtime costs, reducing the number of employees and part-time employees’ work hours.
Hempstead’s part-time workforce has been trimmed by 8.4 percent, he said, to 1,004 employees from 1,096.
“The town has always been supportive of us, and we definitely support Mr. Santino’s effort to keep taxes down” said Julie Marchesella, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, who was one of about 120 people attending the speech at the Bennett Pavilion at Town Hall, including elected town officials and village officials within the town.
Santino also cited quality of life changes made this year, including banning drones at beaches, parks and pools, and requiring mortgage lenders to take responsibility for maintaining properties on which they foreclosed. The town this year also tackled social issues, Santino said, pointing out that officials recently adopted legislation requiring Hempstead, a town of 760,000 residents, to only do business with “entities that attest that they will not engage in boycotts of Israel and other U.S. allies.”
Priorities for the coming year include creating a permanent Sept. 11 memorial, adding a dog park at Newbridge Park, developing commuter-friendly housing, increasing multilingual services and approving $400 million worth of projects in and around the Coliseum. He said he is committed to “creating homes for new members of the town’s family and helping existing neighbors remain.”
Located in Nassau County
Largest township in the country
The town’s 760,000 residents give it a population larger than that in four states and Washington, D.C.
2016 budget: $436.1 million