The Republican majority board and Democratic Supervisor Laura Gillen unanimously passed a tentative $437.6 million budget Tuesday, setting up a debate between Gillen and the board during budget hearings next week.
Hempstead Town Board members proposed 28 budget amendments Tuesday that would cut taxes in 2020 by 3.5%. Gillen last week introduced her $438 million budget with a 1.7% proposed tax decrease, including cutting $4.5 million in property taxes.
Board members, who introduced the amendments before a special meeting Tuesday, said they are projecting a $4 million revenue increase and about $800,000 in spending cuts.
“We said we can do better. We said we can do more,” Councilman Anthony D’Esposito said. “We wanted to give money back to the residents of America’s largest township.”
Gillen said she didn’t receive the board’s amendments until Tuesday, but would review the budget to determine if they were feasible.
The amendments were offered by the four Republican council members and Democratic Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby. They said the amended budget was also drafted with Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin, who is running against Gillen next month for supervisor.
Council members said their revenue projections were based on bond premiums, mortgage recording taxes and about $1 million in additional sales tax that they said Gillen underestimated.
“Government should give taxpayers back their money in times of prosperity, not hold onto it,” Goosby said. “Residents need every dime we can put into their pockets. Money is green, not Democratic or Republican.”
Gillen said the board’s projections were “only a guess.” She said she drafted her budget with projections by the Republican comptroller’s office. Gillen said she rejected budget proposals from town commissioners that would have led to a 7% tax increase.
“I’m proud of the fiscally conservative budget I put forward,” Gillen said. “The comptroller’s office agreed the better approach was to be more conservative than gambling on revenue.”
The proposed amendments further reduce property taxes, but also cuts spending in the supervisor’s budget for interns and part-time workers. Board members proposed cutting $42,000 to the town’s publicity budget and $150,000 to the supervisor’s contingency budget.
Gillen and board members agreed on projections of about $7 million in anticipated retirement savings. Gillen had criticized the practice of projecting retirements in past budgets because separation pay was not factored in. The proposed 2020 budget includes separation pay, she said. The proposed budget eliminates about 55 positions through anticipated retirements.
“The only reason taxes are going down for the last two years is because I’m here,” Gillen said.
Public hearings are planned at 2 and 7 p.m. next Wednesday at Hempstead Town Hall.