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Huntington leaders approve budget, tax hike

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank P. Petrone with the

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank P. Petrone with the town's Facebook page in his office in Huntington, Sept. 22, 2015. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

The Huntington Town Council passed a $188.7 million budget by 4-1 on Thursday, raising property taxes 1.3 percent, despite a small cut in overall spending.

"This was a difficult budget to put together, given the limitations of the tax cap and increases in costs such as health insurance," Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said in a statement. "But I am pleased that we were able to maintain services and programs our residents want."

Despite a 0.2 percent overall spending decrease, the town is increasing the highway budget by $1.9 million. The 5.7 percent increase is in preparation for winter, after higher-than-anticipated costs during severe snowstorms last year.

The approved plan includes a $15 million capital budget that focuses on infrastructure, including rehabilitation of plants and pump stations in the Dix Hills Water District and improvements in the Huntington Sewer District.

Huntington's budget also freezes salaries for elected officials, appointed positions and managers.

Newly re-elected Councilman Gene Cook was the lone opponent on the board to Petrone's budget, which officials said will increase the tax levy by an average of $29.16 per homeowner, depending on individual property values.

"I will never vote for an increase in taxes," Cook said Thursday evening.

The budget did not include new initiatives but allotted funding to complete several that began under the 2015 budget, including improvements at Sweet Hollow and Burrs Lane parks and funding for the design and initial construction of the James D. Conte Community Center at the former Huntington Armory.

The budget also included a controversial 8 percent cut to the Huntington Community First Aid Squad budget. Petrone included the $194,901 cut after officials discovered it had a $2.3 million surplus.

Officials from the ambulance squad had objected to the cut at a public hearing last month, arguing that the bulk of the surplus was generated by donations -- which should be considered separately from taxpayer dollars.

Petrone has said he asked the state comptroller to review the squad's financial records, noting his concern about the high surplus.

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