Town of Huntington officials have voted to allow an override of the state tax levy limit for its 2017 budget if necessary.
The board next will consider a $190 million budget with a 2.85 percent tax levy increase. By piercing the cap. residents can expect to pay an additional $18 to $31.
“I feel very good for the residents of the town of Huntington,” Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said. “It’s a small increase, but it keeps the town alive; it keeps all our youth, senior and arts and culture programs intact, while continuing our relationship with our bargaining units and employees.”
He said that the new budget calls for no raises and no layoffs, but some jobs that become open because of retirements will not be filled. The proposed budget is $1.4 million more than the current budget.
The board voted 5 to 0 to adopt the measure at a packed town board meeting Tuesday night. Representatives from nonprofits, unions, youth groups and the arts filled the newly renovated town board room for a public hearing before the vote was taken. About 30 people addressed the board asking that the town pierce the cap.
Petrone had warned that if he had to offer a budget that did not exceed the cap, there could be layoffs and cuts to youth, senior and arts programs. He cited increases in state mandated expenses and the continued rise in health benefits costs as reasons to pierce the cap.
“It’s exciting that we are able to keep all of our services and activities and programs,” said Jolena Smith, 17, a Huntington High School senior who goes to a local community center a few times a week that she has been attending since she was a child.
The tax cap, which first applied to local governments in 2012, limits tax levy increases to the lesser of the rate of inflation or 2 percent, with some exceptions for new growth in the community or significant additions to existing properties. The cap can be overridden by a “supermajority” — 60 percent — vote either by a governing local board or, in the case of school district budgets, voters.
Michael Kornfeld, the only person to address the board and not ask that the tax cap be pierced, wondered if there were other things that could have been considered.
“My concern is that the supervisor gave the impression that if they don’t pierce the tax cap that would mean cutting funding for the arts and youth services in particular,” Kornfeld said. “I’m not sure if the town board fully explored other possible money saving measures.”