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Hempstead Town budget proposal cuts taxes by 1.5%, Laura Gillen says

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen unveils her 2020

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen unveils her 2020 budget proposal during a news conference Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen on Tuesday said her budget proposal for 2020 will cut town taxes by 1.5% despite what she described as efforts by Hempstead commissioners to "sabotage" her spending plan with requests for additional expenditures.

Gillen said she would achieve the slimmer budget in part through reducing spending on workers' compensation by $800,000 and part-time and seasonal employees by $700,000.

"I am putting forward a responsible budget that respects the taxpayers of this town," said Gillen, a Democrat, who is running for reelection in November.

The Republican majority on the board dismissed the supervisor's proposal.

"Laura Gillen is a tax hiker who has no budgetary credibility," the Republicans said in a joint statement. "The Council Members will present an honest budget that shows real respect for taxpayers."

Gillen said she instructed town commissioners, many of whom were appointed under previous Republican administrations, to submit budget requests that would not increase spending in their departments. Instead, Gillen said, the requests she received would have increased spending by $35 million, including an additional $8 million for staffing in the building and parks departments. Gillen said she saw the requests as an effort to undermine her during her reelection campaign.

"They were deliberately trying to sabotage the budget process and defying the instruction to hold the line on spending," she said.

A spokeswoman for the commissioners of the building and parks departments did not respond to requests for comment.

Gillen's proposal follows a contentious budget process last year in which she and the Republican-controlled town board introduced competing spending plans. The board ultimately pushed through its own plan, which cut taxes by 3.46% over the previous year. Gillen voted against the budget, saying it relied too heavily on estimated attrition in the town workforce.

John Mastromarino, a financial adviser to the town board, said Tuesday that Gillen's 2020 budget proposal was premature, as the Hempstead comptroller's office has not yet received complete data on the town's payroll or assessed taxable property values.

"It is inconceivable that an elected official would purport to have drafted a budget when they do not have accurate numbers to work with," he said in a statement.

The town board is scheduled to hold public hearings on the budget and vote on it Oct. 16.

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