It may not even be enough to buy you a copy of the Sunday New York Times and town of North Hempstead Supervisor May Newburger says she would have preferred not to do it, but the 2 percent tax cut in her preliminary town budget is there to show residents that the town is moving in the right direction.
At a meeting with Anton newspapers editors on Oct. 2, the supervisor was joined by North Hempstead Comptroller Michael Locorriere and Director of Operations Arthur Gianelli and she was generous in her praise of their work in drawing up the budget. "These two young men have pulled off a miracle in the past few years," she said.
Mrs. Newburger said that her administration started with a more than $2.5 million deficit. "Our goal was to get out of debt, to put the town on a sound fiscal basis and to reduce the burden of the Morewood debt." (The Morewood property was purchased in the administration of Supervisor John B. Kiernan for $34 million and subsequently refinanced to $66 million. Originally purchased for a solid waste management facility, it is now the location of the town's Harbor Links golf course.)
As to the first goal, the supervisor said that this will be the third year the town ends the year with a surplus, "a modest one in 1996, $1.9 million last year and $3 million this year." There will also be surpluses in the Highway fund, the General fund, and, for the first time ever, since its creation in 1984, in the Solid Waste Management fund.
Next year, 1999, will be the first full year of operation for the golf course and, while there is debt service to pay for the funds that built it, the supervisor envisions it as "ultimately a pure spring of revenue." In its first 45 days of operation, the course took in $1 million.
One reason the supervisor gave for the town's good fiscal health is that budget estimates have been conservative during her administration. "We also asked all departments to cut 10 percent of their costs," she said, "and of course El Nino helped. We have also made tough choices where necessary." Despite a reduced work force, North Hempstead has not laid off any personnel. What has been done is the shifting of personnel, for example, from Solid Waste, when the position became redundant, to the Highway Department.
In 1996 North Hempstead hired a firm of management consultants and a number of recommendations they made have been implemented. One of these was the creation of a Department of Public Safety , headed by John Kaiman, which has taken over responsibilities for code enforcement, security, the policing of the waterfront, emergency response and the animal shelter. "John Kaiman has created an effective department," Mrs. Newburger said. "We get several calls a week complimenting that department and it has relieved other departments."
The Town of North Hempstead has also been successful in applying for grants from both the state and federal governments. Daniel Nachbar, who had been responsible for pursuing grants, worked with Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli and State Senator Michael Balboni at the state level. As a result the town received $2.5 million for the transfer station, $100,000 for improvements to the Town Dock, $1.25 million for sewer lines at Morewood and $200,000 to protect the Morewood Wetlands.
North Hempstead has, of course, benefitted from the good times on Wall Street with the record low mortgage interest rates one result.
The budget was presented to the Town Board on Tuesday, Oct. 6, after this newspaper went to press. It must now be considered and approved by the board.
The proposed budget, if adopted, will allow for other reforms and expanded programs, including:
* continuation of the town's road resurfacing program and an increase in the number of basic sidewalk repairs by an in-house specialty squad
* a significant increase in tree purchases and plantings, allowing the town to shave at least a year off the present tree planting timetable
* new public safety programs. For the first time in years there will be nighttime Bay Constable coverage for Manhasset Bay and Hempstead Harbor
* park improvements including a new building with enhanced bathroom facilities and recreation space at Reid Park, Westbury; refurbishment of Town Dock Park on Manhasset Bay, and the purchase of at least two more Canada geese chasing dogs to keep parks clean.
The town's long-range capital budget for public works projects will be proposed later in the fall and will include the replacement of dated equipment in all 15 town-operated playgrounds, a new playground for downtown Manhasset and the construction of four athletic fields and a miniature golf complex adjacent to the Harbor Links golf complex.
A public hearing on the preliminary budget will be held at Town Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at North Hempstead Town Hall, 220 Plandome Road, Manhasset.