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Hempstead Town throws caution to the wind

Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin on Nov. 6,

Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin on Nov. 6, 2019 in Garden City. The town board voted 7-0 to approve $617,000 in new hires, $70,000 in promotions and $83,200 in raises in March amid the coronavirus-initiated economic shutdown. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Unemployment is spiking at a record pace, revenues are falling at every level of government as unplanned spending grows, and in the Town of Hempstead, $770,000 worth of hirings, employee raises and promotions have been approved.

Are these moves irresponsible? They certainly seem to lack in both caution, with so much economic uncertainty, and messaging, as Hempstead’s taxpayers face firings and furloughs, pay cuts and shuttered businesses in their own lives.

Supervisor Donald Clavin argues the town can afford it, thanks to buyouts earlier in the year that will save, Clavin said, more than $3 million, and trims in his own office he said save $1 million a year.

At a brief meeting held in an empty auditorium and streamed via Facebook Live on March 31, the town board voted 7-0 to approve $617,000 in new hires, $70,000 in promotions and $83,200 in raises. Clavin says the hires are needed, the promotions deserved, the raises a reflection of work already being done. If these moves could be justified, why was such a controverisal action taken at the height of coronavirus fears when residents were distracted and unable to express an opposing view?

The town is likely to face both revenue challenges, as income from taxes and fees drop, and expenses incurred by reacting to an unprecedented public health challenge mount.

It’s easy enough for Clavin to say the town can afford the spending. Now he’ll have to prove it.

— The editorial board