The Hempstead Town Board on Tuesday approved $770,700 in new hires, raises and promotions, and new time-off benefits for union workers, in a meeting that was closed to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The board voted 7-0 without discussion for the 30 staffing moves and the time-off deal in front of a largely empty auditorium and an audience watching via online livestream in a meeting that lasted just over 10 minutes.
The new personnel spending comes as other Long Island local governments brace for possible budget shortfalls caused by the outbreak.
Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin declined to answer questions after the meeting, issuing a statement instead that said staffing measures such as those approved Tuesday are common.
“The overriding consideration in the presentation of personnel resolutions is the priority of providing the best governmental services in a cost effective manner,” the statement read. “Indeed, today’s personnel actions received bipartisan support in furtherance of this goal,” the statement continued, referring to Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, the lone Democrat on the board. Goosby, who is recovering from the coronavirus, called into the meeting by phone.
The staffing moves consisted of:
- $617,500 in new hires.
- $70,000 in promotions, including one for the daughter of former Hempstead Parks Commissioner Daniel Lino, according to a former town official.
- $83,200 in raises, including one for Deputy Town Attorney Robert Nori. The Nassau County Republican Committee website lists Nori as president of the Garden City Republican Club and Clavin as the club’s leader. Clavin said he is no longer the club's leader.
Hempstead spokesman Greg Blower said the new spending will be offset by savings from a retirement incentive package the town is offering employees. He said 42 workers have already accepted it.
"We fully expect that our budget will continue to be in line with projections," he said.
The union agreement, one of two passed at the meeting, grants extra time off to unionized town employees working through the coronavirus outbreak. Among its provisions: full-time employees deemed essential will receive up to 64 extra hours off for coming into work between March 17 and April 17.
Theresa Kohutka, president of Hempstead’s union local, said she was satisfied with the agreement, which she said compensates town employees for the risks they face coming to work during the public health crisis. In particular, she praised a provision offering essential part-time employees one hour off for every two hours worked in the first two and a half weeks of April.
“They're still risking their health, so I thought they deserved some compensation,” she said. “We want to show the appreciation that they are coming in every day and doing their job.”
The union and staffing moves could have implications for Hempstead’s budget at a time when local governments leaders are projecting possible revenue shortfalls. Mortgage recording taxes and fees for commercial garbage, building permits and recreation all could wane as the outbreak stunts economic activity, Long Island local government officials told Newsday earlier this week.