Written by Chris Boyle Thursday, 24 October 2013 00:00
The Hempstead Town unanimously adopted its 2014 fiscal budget at a public budget hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 15; Supervisor Kate Murray touted the $431.9 million spending plan, which shows a reduction in property taxes, as a helping hand extended towards residents dealing with multiple financial issues.
“Homeowners are confronting extensive financial and personal hardship, rebuilding their homes and their lives in the wake of Superstorm Sandy,” she said. “Still other residents are coping with the effects of a prolonged economic downturn. In times like these, local governments have an obligation to help ease the burden borne by local taxpayers. Indeed, my 2014 budget proposal reduces town taxes.”
The 2014 budget for the Town of Hempstead comes in at a total of $431.9 million, which is a three percent increase of $12.5 million compared to the Town’s 2013 budget. The property tax levy cut mentioned by Murray is 0.5 percent, which constitutes $1.2 million; the total of property taxes to be levied under this budget is $261 million, compared to $262.2 million in 2013.
According to officials, the plan in place is to use $31.2 million in Hempstead Town reserves, which were approximately $120 million at the beginning of 2013, to offset some of the costs associated with the 2014 budget.
Franklin Square resident Felix Procacci, one of the speakers in the public comments section of the afternoon budget meeting, is currently in the running for Kate Murray’s Supervisor seat in the upcoming town elections; Procacci noted that this town hall meeting was the 69th consecutive one in a row he had attended.
Speaking for over 30 minutes, well over the three-minute time limit normally imposed upon guests, Procacci continuously ignored the timekeeper’s bell in favor of calling Murray and her administration out on what he at one point called a “misappropriation” of funds, a strong term that Murray cautioned him against using.
“Don’t use words like ‘misappropriation.’ You don’t mean it,” she said.
Procacci continued to grill the town board, citing several instances of what he deemed wasteful spending on promotional material and the ‘inflated’ salaries of certain people employed by the town.
“You spend about $4 million dollars a year on flyers...we could pave four miles of road a year on what Supervisor Murray spends on publicity,” he said. “You’re also budgeting $293,000 a year for three graphic artists for the General Services Department.”
“Those are specific personnel facts,” Murray said. “The human resources director can speak to you about that.”
Procacci also complained about rising taxes in the Town of Hempstead over the past several years. Town officials countered that their budget plan was fiscally responsible and that Hempstead’s current credit rating, as it has been for the last several years, is at Triple A status; this rating is the highest level possible.