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Huntington Town's 2020 budget passes by default

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci's preliminary $205.7 million budget for 2020, in which taxes would rise slightly, will go into effect — by default.

The operating budget resolution was offered by Lupinacci for a vote at Tuesday’s town board meeting and was seconded by town board member Mark Cuthbertson. After some discussion and failed attempts at amending the resolution, Cuthbertson withdrew his support.

Without a second, the board could not vote on the measure.

Because that was the board's last chance to adopt a budget before a Nov. 20 state deadline, the preliminary budget, presented in September, will go into effect next year.

Lupinacci, a Republican, said he was not going to worry about the politics of why the board did not support him and instead touted what he described as an excellent budget.

“It falls within the state-mandated tax cap. It continues to provide great levels of service,” he said. “We’ve continued to find savings through shared services and dual-stream recycling and we had our Triple A credit rating reaffirmed by the rating agencies.”

The 2020 plan calls for raising property taxes 2.28%, which translates to about a $38.14 increase.The operating budget is a 2.84% increase over the current $200 million budget. 

Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol, both Democrats, offered separate amendments to the budget resolution but those efforts failed.

“I offered an amendment to the 2020 supervisor’s proposed budget to eliminate a number of deputy and confidential positions that have been slipped into the town payroll since January 2018,” Cuthbertson said. “This amendment would save approximately $870,000 in 2020.”

He said he could not support a budget that did not address his concerns.

Cergol said she did not support the budget because it failed to address critical staffing deficiencies in some departments as well as pay inequity among exempt personnel.

“My modest amendment, which the board majority did not consider, would have been a start toward a necessary in-depth assessment of how we can best serve our residents,” Cergol said. 

Town board member Gene Cook, an Independence Party member, said he did not support Cuthbertson’s amendment because he shared it with colleagues too late to be considered. Cook called the amendment a “hatchet job” and, while he liked Cergol’s amendment, he wanted more time to consider it.

As for Lupinacci’s budget, Cook said he took issue with financial aspects of it, including some raises.

“There were changes that he should have made and he didn’t want to do that, so I didn’t vote for it,” Cook said.

Republican Town board member Ed Smyth said he didn’t vote for the budget because “I expected to have greater participation in its development from the start.”

Lupinacci said he’s proud of a budget that offers something for everyone.

“Politics will be politics," he said, "but in the end, you need to make sure you deliver to the residents.”

The $22.6 million capital budget passed 4 to 1, with Cergol abstaining.

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