Huntington Town Supervisor Ed Smyth with mechanic Tyrone Menefee at the...

Huntington Town Supervisor Ed Smyth with mechanic Tyrone Menefee at the HART bus depot in Huntington Station. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Huntington has nearly depleted its fuel budget for the town-operated bus system due to inflation, which also is affecting the town's long-planned animal shelter, the town supervisor said Thursday.

The town had budgeted $190,000 for 2022 and has spent $180,422.84 as of Aug. 18, Town Supervisor Ed Smyth told Newsday.

“And we still have four months to go,” Smyth said. However, there will be no impact on bus service, Smyth added.

According to AAA, the current average price for a gallon of regular gas in Nassau and Suffolk is $4.04 and $5.32 for diesel. Last year at this time, the average cost of a gallon of regular was $3.21 and diesel was $3.40.

Huntington is the only town on Long Island that operates its own bus system.

In 2021, the town's Huntington Area Rapid Transit system had 77,386 riders, town officials said. The system offers fixed-route and paratransit passenger service, and has a fleet of 24 buses. 

Additionally, the town's longtime plans for a $7-million state-of-the-art dog shelter in Halesite is on hold, the supervisor said, adding that the town’s four-legged residents will have to continue to make do with the current facility in East Northport.

“The estimated costs of a new shelter have skyrocketed past what would be considered a reasonable use of taxpayer dollars," Smyth said.

Smyth also warned of potential cuts to the 2023 budget.

“We’re going through our 2023 budget process right now and due to huge increases in costs of everything across the board, it’s very challenging to craft a budget that is below the tax cap,” Smyth said. “But we’re not there yet.”

Smyth said he “would make drastic cuts" to the 2023 budget to stay within the state-mandated tax cap. 

He said he is looking at ways to increase revenue, including by increasing fees for parking.

"But we’re going to speak with business owners and get their input, " he said.

The fuel cost dilemma is relatable, Smyth said.

“It’s something every resident understands very easily because it’s affecting everybody and the town is not immune from the effects of inflation.”

Smyth said he'd like to increase ridership for HART’s fixed-route general public transit service. 

The town board has declared the week of Sept. 19-24 as free fare week on HART.

“If we could get more people on to the bus, it would quickly offset the cost of fuel,” he said.

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