In an effort to avoid a 1,100 percent parking-fee increase and possible layoffs to plug an $8 million gap in the proposed 2013 budget, Huntington Town board members Mark Mayoka and Eugene Cook said they have reactivated the Huntington Budget Task Force to find alternative savings ideas and are calling on their board colleagues to help.
The two board members made the announcement at the Huntington Station LIRR stop Monday night, and said the committee would focus immediately on reducing or eliminating increased parking fees, especially the fee to park in either of the garages at the Huntington Long Island Rail Road Station, which is proposed to go from $50 a year to $600 a year. They also would focus on eliminating the personal use of town cars; reject a proposal to raise salaries for all town board members and, instead, reduce all town board members' salaries by 10 percent; and, finally, control spending of special reserve accounts; and require a supermajority vote for all proposed reserve spending.
"I am convinced that my colleagues on the board will listen to logical reason and certain things will take place to lower spending," Mayoka, a Republican, said.
The two want their colleagues, Town Supervisor Frank Petrone and town board members Mark Cuthbertson and Susan Berland, all Democrats, to appoint qualified representatives to the task force. So far, including the two board members, Mayoka said there are seven members.
Mayoka said the Huntington Budget Task Force was decommissioned in the 1990s. They both said re-establishing the committee would make the town government more efficient and it would strive to maintain the town's triple A bond rating.
But Cuthbertson argued that there is no need for a "buffer" committee to distract the board from doing the work it was elected to do.
"The buck stops with the board," he said. "We need to make decisions in tough economic times and must step up to the plate. That's what we do."
Berland said she finds it "ironic" that Mayoka offered the resolution for the public hearing on the parking-fee increases and Cook seconded it, yet it seems they have already made up their minds before hearing from the public.
"Also, in this day and age when people communicate by a number of means, I was given no heads up about this and it seems that was done intentionally," she said.
Petrone declined to comment.
Cook, a member of the Independence party, said he hopes common sense will prevail and his colleagues will appoint residents to the task force.
"It's simple. We have to run the business of the people. In these hard economic times, we have to be diligent in the way we decide to spend," he said. "Let's take a play from the supervisor's own playbook and get people on the task force as in the past."
The Huntington Town board is having a public hearing Tuesday at 6 p.m. at town hall, 100 Main St., to discuss the budget.