Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone submitted a proposed $181.7 million budget for 2013 to the Town Board Friday morning in a special 9 a.m. meeting.
The budget calls for a .83 percent increase in the Town's total tax -- about $19 for the average homeowner -- and reflects a $1.5 million decrease in capital spending.
Petrone said his budget strives to maintain programs and services residents demand with marginal increases in spending and taxes, though this may come at the cost of cuts to Town personnel and increases in HART bus fare, recreation, parking and refuse fees.
Petrone noted that his last two budgets had reduced spending through salary freezes, blue collar attrition, and by trimming non-personnel related costs to the bone. Now, he said, those opportunities are becoming more difficult to find.
“This fact coupled with flat revenues, the impact of continual increases in State mandated personnel costs, and the increases in the price of commodities and energy, all over which the Town exerts no control, means that the 2013 Budget requires very, very difficult choices,” Petrone said.
In particular, mandated pension and health insurance costs are projected to increase by $2.7 million in 2013 and the other costs over which the town has no control are projected to increase by $500,000. Meanwhile, mortgage tax revenues are projected to decrease by $400,000.
"Additional personnel savings that we'll be looking for that can come in the way of negotiation with the CSEA Union [are being considered]," he said. "...I know that this board is not looking to eliminate positions, so that would be a last ditch effort."
In regards to raising bus and parking fees, Petrone said, "I think it's time to look at the HART bus fees that haven't been raised for many years, as well as the parking fees, to be raised and perhaps to be prioritized as far as what's of more value. A garage parking spot is of more value than a field parking spot a quarter mile from the train platform."
Specific measures reflected in the 2013 budget include:
- A capital budget of $8.6 million, $1.5 million less than in 2012.
- Projected $1.5 million in white-collar personnel savings that could include the elimination of positions unless equivalent savings can be negotiated with CSEA, the union representing white-collar employees. The Town is currently working with the CSEA to reach an agreement on the savings.
- Fee increases in various areas where the Town has historically charged far less than required to operate and maintain services, most notably parking and Town recreation programs. These fee increases are projected to total $4.1 million.
- The use of $3.9 million of fund balances and reserves, less than in 2011.
The projected 0.83 percent overall tax hike reflects increases in the General and Refuse Funds, offset by savings in the Highway and Part Town Funds. A mild winter, coupled with reimbursement from FEMA for Tropical Storm Irene expenses, as well as a healthy reserve account to draw upon all contributed to the reduction in Highway taxes.
The Town also will continue to realize the savings from Supervisor Petrone’s plan, approved by the Town Board earlier this year, to refinance approximately one-quarter of the Town’s outstanding debt. The Town was able to sell the re-issues at rates of less than 1 percent, which will generate more than $2-million in saving over the next seven years, which translates to a decrease in debt service of $130,000 in 2013.
Supervisor Petrone noted that capital spending over the past few years has included major and costly measures to improve parking, including restoration of the North and South parking garages at the Huntington Long Island Rail Road station, as well as additional parking at the Cold Spring Harbor. The Town has also acquired property and created new parking at several locations in Huntington Village.
While the Town will limit most capital spending in 2013, one project that will move forward without interruption is the multi-million dollar reconstruction of the Town’s largest parking facility on Gerard Street opposite the Huntington Post Office.
A number of public hearings are scheduled on the budget for Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall. They include the operating budget, the capital budget, the assessment roll for the Huntington and Centerport sewer districts, and increases in HART bus fare, and refuse and parking fees.
A copy of the budget will be available on the Town's website through Huntington at Your Service.