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Huntington budget calls for tax increase

Taxes would rise slightly while the operating budget would decrease by $10 million under a proposed 2012 budget presented by Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone at Tuesday night's town board meeting.

In his executive summary, Petrone called the budget "the leanest" he has presented -- a term he used when presenting the 2011 budget.

This year's proposal would reduce the operating budget by about $10 million, to $174 million. Taxes for a home assessed at $4,100 would increase by 1.1 percent, or about $12.

That figure does not include increases in any special districts, such as those that only apply to residents living in villages.

The 1.1 percent tax increase is due to a 3 percent tax increase in the highway fund to pay for cleanup after severe weather and storm events, like Tropical Storm Irene, Petrone said.

Mandated increases in state retirement and insurance costs, as well as a rise in commodity costs, totaled $8.7 million, leading to the same amount of reductions in spending on operating expenses in other areas, Petrone said in his letter to the town board presenting his proposal.

The budget includes no salary increases for elected officials and appointed employees, and a 10 percent contribution by employees toward health-insurance premiums. No salary increases have been budgeted for those union employees involved in ongoing labor negotiations. The proposed budget includes a layoff plan if those unions do not agree to a salary freeze and to contribute 10 percent to the cost of their health insurance.

The proposal eliminates 10 vacant positions for an estimated cost savings of $700,000. Fees for services, such as commuter parking or boat racks, will not be increased, as they were under last year's budget.

A public hearing on the budget proposal will be held at the board's Oct. 11 meeting. Council member Mark Mayoka was the lone dissenter in Tuesday's vote to schedule the hearing.

Mayoka said he voted against the hearing because he was not given any time to review the budget proposal before the vote. The budget was distributed to council members on the dais on Tuesday night.

"I find it impossible without being given any time to review the budget to vote in favor of having a public hearing on it," Mayoka said.

The board is scheduled to adopt a 2012 budget on Nov. 9.

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