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Hempstead supervisor cites budget surplus after spending cuts

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino held a news conference on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, to discuss how he successfully transformed a 2016 budget that included a $24 million deficit into a financial document boasting a $5 million surplus. (Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely)

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino on Tuesday touted a budget surplus for the town as a challenger for his job questioned his role as a former councilman in previous deficits.

Santino, in a news conference at Town Hall, announced a $5 million surplus for 2016 that reversed a $24 million drawdown of reserves in the previous year’s budget.

The town closed the 2016 budget last Friday, in what Santino said marked a $29 million turnaround from the budget the town board passed in 2015.

“Managing budgets is one of the most difficult tasks government leaders must confront,” Santino said. “These results have a direct and positive impact on local taxpayers.”

Laura Gillen, Santino’s Democratic challenger in the November election, in a separate news conference at Town Hall, said it was Santino’s duty as a councilman before being elected supervisor to review the budget he approved.

“Where has Tony Santino been for the past 24 years?” Gillen said. “He’s been out to lunch. Only a career politician would call this a win.”

Santino, who was sworn in as supervisor in 2016, said he inherited the budget from then-Supervisor Kate Murray and it included overspending compared with the revenue the town received.

Hempstead officials cut $7 million in labor costs and $10.9 million in spending for the $436.4 million 2016 budget.

Santino said the town increased building permit and town fees revenue to $102 million, grew mortgage recording receipts to $22.3 million and gained nearly $38 million in sales tax, totaling a positive revenue gain of more than $12 million.

Town officials also touted cutting overtime by 45 percent last year, totaling $2.5 million.

Town board members approved Santino’s $422.7 million 2017 budget in October, which he described as the first structurally sound budget in 25 years and said adds to the reserve funds.

The overall budget spending was cut by $13.4 million. The budget includes saving $19 million in wages through early retirements.

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