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Petrone proposes $188.7 million budget for Huntington

Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone on Wednesday proposed a $188.7 million town budget for 2016, about 0.2 percent less than the current budget.

The overall property tax levy would increase by 1.3 percent, meeting the state-mandated cap and increasing the annual tax for town residents by an average $29.16.

The biggest spending category would be $64.7 million for contracts, material and supplies, $59.3 million for town salaries and $42.1 million toward employee benefits and taxes.

Property taxes account for $114.5 million of 2016's projected $188.7 million in revenue. Another $41.1 million is expected through fees and fines; and state aid is anticipated at $11.8 million.

The budget proposal includes a $1.9 million hike in the highway budget. The 5.7 percent increase is in preparation for winter after higher than anticipated costs during severe snowstorms last year.

Petrone's proposal would offset that increase by providing little to no increases in several town funds, including the general fund, the business improvement district and waste water disposal.

Decreased spending in some special districts is proposed, with a nearly 25 percent cut to the Commack Ambulance District, and a 6.6 percent cut to the Huntington Sewer District.

In his annual budget message, Petrone pledged to lobby state lawmakers to reconsider a provision of tax cap legislation that counts revenue raised through the Bond Act toward the total tax levy increase. The Bond Act allows voters to decide via referendums if they want to spend more money (through higher taxes) for specific projects or initiatives. Petrone said that tax should not count against the cap.

For now, it limits officials' ability to deliver services and projects that voters want, he said. For example, the proposed budget doesn't include plans to renew one of the Open Space Bond Acts, designed to expand the acquisition of open space and improve neighborhoods and add green energy programs.

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