The Huntington Town Board approved a 2019 budget just shy of $200 million Tuesday evening by a vote of 3-2.
The budget is up $5.5 million over 2018, a 2.82 percent increase that is within the state’s 2 percent tax cap limit. The budget will result in a $49 increase for the average taxpayer for the year.
Revenues are projected at $198,958,798, an increase of $5,464,719 over 2018’s revenue of $193,494,079. Expenses are projected at $199,708,798.
Board members Joan Cergol and Mark Cuthbertson voted against the budget. Cergol first proposed a budget amendment to remove what she referred to as patronage jobs and other expenses that would have saved $1 million and reduced the tax levy to 1.85 percent, but it was defeated by a 3-2 vote.
“I would prefer no tax increase at all but I well understand we have contractual obligation expenses along with a 9 percent increase in health insurance over which the town has no control. But for the sake of every taxpayer we have an obligation to exercise control when it comes to the hiring of appointed personnel, specifically jobs that are exempt from civil service, otherwise known as patronage jobs,” Cergol said.
Taxpayers face a double whammy of a tax levy increase and increased fees across the board, she said.
Cuthberston supported Cergol’s proposed amendment. “I had concerns in August when many of these confidential patronage positions were added,” he said. “They have to get paid for somehow and they’re getting paid for in this budget with a tax increase.”
When the first proposed budget amendment did not pass, Cergol then proposed a second budget amendment that she said would have saved $200,000 and reduced the tax levy change to 2.38 percent, but it died for lack of a second and so was not voted on. Cergol’s second budget amendment proposal retained four confidential secretarial positions for the council members, called for eliminating unnecessary appointed personnel and would have rescinded resident boat mooring permit fees.
Town Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci said the budget stays within the tax cap. He noted there are fewer full-time employees in 2019 than in 2018 and the budget fully funds programs for veterans, the elderly and the public safety department. He also noted the town’s AAA credit rating was recently reaffirmed by credit agencies, which lets the town pay lower interest when it borrows for capital projects.
Lupinacci said it also funds reforms in the engineering and building department that support same-day permitting and hiring of more plans examiners to keep down wait times for proposed building projects. It also takes into account changes in the recycling market and accounts for the weakening market for recyclables. “The recycling program’s gone from revenue generation to costing us money,” he noted.
“We have contractual obligations and also health care controls but still 92 percent of the workforce still stays within civil service,” Lupinacci said.