Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray is seeking re-election not only because she wants to continue serving her constituents, there are a number of things she'd still like to accomplish. Priority number one for Murray: provide the best municipal services at the lowest possible costs.
She recently filed the town's proposed 2006 budget, which freezes all town taxes. "It's a very conservatively crafted budget that doesn't unduly depend on forecasts for say mortgage receipts or anything like that," she said. Murray is sure this "out-of-the-box" thinking has led, in large part, to Wall Street upgrading the town's credit rating once again.
She also boasts of the town's success in keeping spending increases well within and even below the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the past 12 months. "This is a difficult thing to do these days with double digit increases in health insurance costs each year, heating oil, etc," she said.
Since January 2003, when Murray became supervisor, she said she has consistently looked for ways to increase productivity and decrease labor costs. Looking at the township's staffing levels, she instituted swing shifts, night shifts and weekend shifts. Murray noted overtime spending decreased in 2003-04 by almost 50 percent. "We are on a pace for 2005 to match that kind of savings for this year as well," she added.
Murray also offers private retirement incentives for the town's most expensive employees. "For every two employees that retire, we only hire back one," she said. "We are immediately on a 50 percent reduced rate of hiring."
Murray said the environment is a very important issue for her, noting that the municipality is the first and only to use solar panels. The town received a $50,000 rebate from LIPA for installing a series of such panels in town hall and the Conservation and Waterways facility. Weeks ago, the town rolled out hybrid-powered garbage trucks purchased with a $325,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research Development Agency. The town currently has five such trucks in use.
Murray is also accelerating the pace with which the town builds affordable housing. "Our young people are not able to afford the down payment to get into a home and then, once they're in the home, to afford the mortgage payments and the taxes," she said.
Hempstead Town's Department of Planning and Economic Development recently oversaw the completion of eight homes that comprise Phase 9 of Murray's Affordable Homes Program. The current purchase price of these homes, being built with federal grants, is $139,500. More than 200 homes have been built during the past 20 years and the town is about to begin Phase 10, where another 11 homes will be built in Roosevelt and three in Inwood.
A $100 million road improvement capital program, which will take place over the next five years and improve, where needed, the more than 12 miles of road within the township, is her next priority.
A lifelong resident of Levittown, Murray is running on the Republican, Independence and Conservative party lines.
She is a member of the Nassau County Bar Association, the Women's Bar Association, the Levittown Historical Society, Friends of the Hofstra Arboretum, Irish Americans in Government, the Sierra Club and the board of directors of the Bellmore-Merrick Wellness Council. Murray is also a sponsor of the Irish Repertory Theatre.
This November, current Nassau County Assessor Harvey Levinson of Garden City said he hopes to unseat Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray to bring about real change. "Our taxes are too high and we have too many unnecessary levels of government," he said. "We're in one of the most beautiful, livable corners of the world, but illegal housing threatens our suburban quality of life. And while we have many noble and honorable public servants, too many town employees owe their positions to wasteful political patronage, not merit and experience."
If elected, reducing what he described as a tax burden on working families will be his administration's number one priority. "The Town of Hempstead's tax burden is 65 percent greater than our neighbors in North Hempstead - and this is simply unacceptable," Levinson said. "In addition, the town's failure ... to enforce the building code has led to higher school property taxes due to a proliferation of dangerous illegal housing."
He said he'd cut "perks, patronage, and lavish political junk mail" in an effort to lower taxes. He said he would start with the town's payroll. "Under the incumbent, the Town of Hempstead currently employs over 300 Republican committee people on the payroll - even the incumbent's own family members. The patronage waste adds up and it's time to reduce unnecessary positions and hire based on merit, not political favoritism," he said.
As Hempstead Town supervisor, Levinson vows to take on a leadership role in consolidating unnecessary levels of government - specifically sanitation and water districts. He believes there are too many layers of government and intends to modernize how the township delivers quality service to residents. "Service is good, but there's no good reason why residents of Baldwin should pay twice as much as residents of Merrick for their garbage bills," he said.
To tackle the affordable housing issue, Levinson said he would appoint a housing commissioner Nov. 9 to help develop and implement a comprehensive housing plan for Hempstead. He believes the current approach is not working. "We have too few workforce housing units and illegal housing threatens our quality of life," he said.
His plan: bringing developers, community leaders and residents to the table to develop quality, mixed-use, mixed-income housing within his first term. Specifically, he said he would work to redevelop downtown corridors and former brownfield sites to get the greatest impact for the area. In addition, he vows to overhaul the town's attorney's office to "improve code enforcement and crackdown on dangerous illegal housing."
He also said he intends to coordinate with sanitation employees and garbage collectors to gather information on illegal housing's presence. Levinson said under his leadership, the town will design a universal form where workers can record evidence of illegal houses. He said the town would also actively interview garbage collectors because he believes they are often the first to identify specific houses and neighborhoods with consistently large amounts of garbage.
Levinson is running on the Democrat and Working Families party lines. He and his wife, Gail, reside in the village and have two grown daughters and one grandchild. Levinson was in the first graduating class of Wantagh High School and earned degrees from New York University and Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C. He is president of the condo board, board of trustees of the Garden City Jewish Center, where he works to maintain the community's high quality of life.