Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen proposed a tentative 2020 budget last week that would include a 1.7 percent tax cut by denying town commissioners’ requests for $35 million in new spending, including over $20 million in additional spending for new full-time, part-time and seasonal positions.
Gillen’s office said that the proposal would reduce the number of full-time employees by approximately 50 positions through attrition and would cut the part-time and seasonal payroll by 5 percent. The budget is set for a vote on Oct. 16.
“By tightly controlling spending over the past year and pushing back on the Republican Majority’s Commissioners attempts to inflate the budget, this administration has delivered a sensible tax cut proposal without negatively affecting services,” Gillen, a Democrat, said in written a statement.
The proposed $438 million budget is in line with the adopted 2019 budget, Gillen’s office said, while absorbing an approximately 2 percent increase in health care costs and 3.25 percent increases to cover contractually obligated step increases for employees.
The budget also calls for restoring at least $5 million in town reserves and budgeting approximately $3.6 million for contractually obligated employee separation pay instead of relying on borrowing. The budget also cuts $800,000 from the workers compensation program.
Among the additional spending that Gillen said she has denied to Republican-led department heads was $3 million for 30 new full-time employees in the Building Department and over $5 million in additional funding for part-time and seasonal employees in the Parks Department.
“This budget balances the Republican Majority’s handpicked commissioner’s requests for $35 million in additional spending with the public’s need for real tax relief,” Gillen said.
Gillen said these proposals would have “grossly inflated” the budget, increasing spending by approximately 8 percent, which demonstrates that Hempstead Republicans “are either incompetent or deliberatively sabotaging the budget process.”
Gillen said that commissioners appointed by Republican board members would have increased spending enough to result in a 7 percent tax increase.
The Republican majority members of the Town Board released a joint statement calling Gillen a “tax hiker,” saying she has no “budgetary credibility” and that she rejected a proposal last year that would have decreased Hempstead taxes by 4.2 percent.
”She proposed hiking taxes by millions for 2019, voted “NO” on the Council Members’ 2019 adopted budget that cut taxes by 4.2 percent and she has lied to taxpayers, taking credit for the tax cut which she voted against. The Council Members will present an honest budget that shows real respect for taxpayers,” the council members said in a statement.
John Mastromarino, a financial adviser for the Town Board, said Gillen has drafted a budget without “accurate numbers to work with.” Mastromarino said that he has been working with the town comptroller’s office on behalf of the Town Board and said that the board has not received completed assessment data or final payroll information.
“A budget simply cannot be completed without these vital components,” Mastromarino said.
The Town Board will hold budget hearings at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Oct. 16 and a vote to finalize the budget will be held at the end of the 7 p.m. hearing.