Town of North Hempstead taxpayers will see a slight reduction in their tax bill, thanks to a one-time adjustment from the implementation of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) 2013 Reform Act.
The budget was approved on Nov. 1 with a 6-1 vote. Council Members Viviana L. Russell, Peter J. Zuckerman, Angelo P. Ferrara, Anna M. Kaplan and Lee R. Seeman all voted to approve the budget on Nov. 1, with Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio the lone ‘no’ vote.
De Giorgio said she could not support a budget which directed substantial salary increases to political appointees.
“The town was able to realize substantial savings through a reduction in debt service payments and in union worker salaries due to the retirement of longtime employees,” DeGiorgio said. “I would have preferred to see these cost savings passed on to the taxpayers through tax cuts or used to fund vital infrastructure work, including road repaving and tree replanting. Instead, the town took the opportunity to increase political appointee payroll by nearly $1 million.”
The councilwoman, who represents Manhasset and Port Washington, also took issue with money from the Port Washington Parking District budget being used toward the town’s general budget.
“When I voted to increase parking fees, I made a commitment to my constituents that the fees would go to paying down the parking district’s debt, and to capital projects, and that the increase would not be used as a source of revenue for the town,” De Giorgio said. “While the budget increased capital spending in the parking district, which will lead to needed improvements to our parking lots, the town also increased administrative charge-backs in the parking district, which sends funds directly to the town’s general budget and out of Port Washington.”
Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the town was able to put together a prudent fiscal plan that stayed under the tax cap and reflects the best interests of North Hempstead taxpayers, protects the environment and offers vast recreational resources.
“We have a deep obligation to our residents to provide the services they expect and deserve, while also being fiscally responsible,” Bosworth said. “This 2017 budget fulfills those responsibilities.”
The town’s budget includes a $67.2 million General Fund, a $35.2 million Town Outside Village (TOV) Fund and $24.04 million for the 20 Town-Operated Special Districts (TOSDs). The town’s Solid Waste Management Authority’s $17.8 million budget also passed unanimously.
For residents living in incorporated villages, the General Fund Budget represents a $5.38 annual decrease for the average household. For residents living in the unincorporated areas of the own, who also pay the TOV tax, the decrease represents $47.17 per year for the average household. Approximately two-thirds of the overall reduction is related to the one-time LIPA adjustment.
The county planned to remove LIPA properties from regular tax rolls for the first time in 2016 to comply with the state’s 2013 LIPA Reform Act, which allows LIPA to make Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) and holds these payments to a 2 percent tax cap. However, the tax LIPA would have paid was inadvertently left on the tax roll in 2016, generating a small amount of additional tax revenue for the town. Adjustments were made to the 2017 budget to return this money to the taxpayers in the form of a slight decrease in their property taxes in 2017 for many households.
One of the biggest changes in the new budget plan is the repositioning of several town entities under different departments, to “better align services and increase efficiency.” That includes moving the Security Division from Public Safety to under the Parks and Recreation Department, as well as moving Purchasing, Grants and TownStat to the Supervisor’s Office. The budget also includes money for the Office of Sustainability to fund an inter-municipal program aimed at reducing contaminated storm-water runoff into the town’s bays and estuaries.
In September, independent Wall Street bond rating agency Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., reaffirmed the town’s Aa1 rating with a positive outlook. These positive ratings, based on the town’s conservative fiscal management practices and its reduction of debt by $32 million, translate into lower interest rates on town borrowing and savings for taxpayers.