I am pleased to inform our residents that my administration has crafted a budget for 1999 which holds the line on general town and part-town taxes. The proposal sets a general town tax rate of 91.4 cents per hundred dollars of assessed valuation. This is the same rate that town residents have paid since 1997, and is below the rate they paid in 1995 and 1996. With 735,000 residents the Town of Hempstead is the most populous township in the United States, providing a wide range of services to its constituency. The proposed budget for 1999 under which those services would be provided totals of $265, million or an increase of just seven-tenths of one percent over the 1998 spending plan. To put that in perspective, consumer prices, as reported by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics increased almost 1.5 percent in the last year. By employing strict cost-saving measures, such as the reduction of 50 full-time employees through attrition and by generating non-tax revenue through franchise fees, property rentals and user fees, we have been able to cover most of the rising expenses without reaching deeper in the pockets of our taxpayers. Residents of incorporated villages have good reason to cheer the town's 1999 budget. On a home assessed at $5000, the new budget freezes town taxes at a total of just $45.70 for the year. For residents of unincorporated areas, the news is also positive. The 1999 budget proposal freezes taxes in 36 of 38 town-controlled districts which provide building and highway services, parks and recreation programs, sanitation collection and disposal, water, public parking and fire protection. Slight increases are proposed to the Town of Hempstead Park District tax to fund improvements made to the town's 40-year-old park infrastructure, and in the Highway tax, which finances bonds issued to pay for the reconstruction and resurfacing of roads in many of the town's neighborhoods. For a typical taxpayer in unincorporated areas, the proposed budget increase would amount to an average of $12.16 yearly, or approximately $1 a month. As a homeowner and taxpayer myself, I realize full well the burden borne by our residents as a result of continually escalating school taxes. That makes me particularly aware of the need for town government to offset that burden to the greatest extent possible. I take great pride in knowing that the Town of Hempstead has been able to set the tone for other municipalities to emulate. Working together, our residents, along with the government that serves them, can continue to create a quality of life here in Hempstead Town which is second to none.