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Hempstead Town board passes $437M budget for 2020 with 3.8% tax cut

Wilhelmina Funderburker addresses the Hempstead Town board Monday.

Wilhelmina Funderburker addresses the Hempstead Town board Monday. The board unanimously approved a $437 million budget for 2020.   Credit: Johnny Milano

The Hempstead Town Board voted unanimously Monday night to pass a $437 million budget, including a 3.8% tax cut and an average savings of $28 for property owners.

Before Monday’s 6-0 vote, the board had twice delayed a final decision on its 2020 budget. Council members voted to postpone the budget vote in late October because they said they were concerned about whether the town would receive $3.8 million in state aid known as Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, which was reduced in the 2019-20 state budget.

“We have received assurances from the county executive and the presiding officer of the legislature that the $3.8 million will be there,” said Republican Deputy Supervisor Bruce Blakeman, who is seeking re-election Tuesday. “We also consulted with our financial people and we feel that, in the unlikely event it’s not there, we would be able to develop a contingency plan to make up for that.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced Friday that she would introduce emergency legislation to allow the return of $7.9 million in state aid, including the amount allotted for Hempstead Town, to local municipalities.

Before the vote, Councilman Anthony D’Esposito introduced a last-minute amendment — the 29th that board members have made to Gillen’s proposed budget — to further cut spending by $746,000.

The move included eliminating two full-time positions from the supervisor’s office, two full-time positions from the town board’s staff, and part-time positions from the receiver of taxes’ office and the town clerk’s office.

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, a Democrat seeking her second term, was the lone dissenting vote on D’Esposito’s amendment.

“We asked for a copy of it, but I was not given it until right now. So I have to vote no because I haven’t even had a chance to read it,” she said. “It seems to target my office disproportionately, which has a budget of about $1.7 million less than the town council, even though collectively we represent the same amount of people.”

The budget, which cuts property taxes by $4.5 million, would save property owners from as low as $22 in communities such as Atlantic Beach to as high as $142 for residents in Levittown, according to John Mastromarino, a former town comptroller and a financial consultant the town board hired in 2018.

Gillen previously said her budget covers $3.9 million in separation pay while eliminating 55 full-time positions through attrition and expected retirements, which is projected to save $7 million.

The supervisor’s budget also calls for an additional $6.6 million in expected income from sales and mortgage taxes. But town board members expect an additional $4 million, on top of the $6.6 million, in anticipated revenue next year through bond premiums as well as the mortgage and sales taxes.

Throughout the budget meeting, the supervisor and board members bickered about who should get the credit for passing the tax cut, with Gillen calling the board’s delaying of the budget vote “political theater” and council members saying they are the ones who did the work to cut taxes by 8% in the past two years.

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