Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen last week directed the town’s 28 departments to prepare for cuts to their budgets of 5 percent following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s release of a state budget that calls for reductions in state aid that could cost the town $3.8 million.
At a press conference Thursday, Gillen called Cuomo’s cuts to Aid to Municipalities “out of left field” and expressed disappointment that the announcement of cuts came with no warning after the town already passed their $432.5 million budget in November 2018.
“Unlike the federal government, our No. 1 priority in the Town of Hempstead is to ensure that essential, everyday services continue and that the hardworking men and women that serve the residents day-in and day-out have the tools and resources to deliver,” Gillen said.
The $3.8 million, which accounts for .69 percent of the total town budget, funds services like road repairs, sanitation and much more, Gillen said.
The aid is critical to the budget, which the board intentionally negotiated to be “lean and trim,” according to Gillen.
“Every dollar counts,” she added.
Gillen has sent a memo to the heads of the 28 departments instructing each to identify 5 percent of discretionary spending that can be cut to compensate for the potential loss of funding. Five percent of spending cut from each of the departments would total the amount lost, according to Gillen.
“This is a worst case, belt-tightening scenario,” Gillen said.
The department heads have until Feb. 15 to submit budget recommendations to Gillen’s office for consideration of a plan to put in place ahead of the state’s budget adoption vote on April 1.
The spending cuts would not be directed at services, personnel or contractual commitments, according to Gillen.
As the financial director of the largest township in the country, Gillen said that it would be irresponsible to not be prepared for the potential cuts.
Gillen’s office is “looking at all possible scenarios” and exploring all options to account for the potential cuts, according to the supervisor.
The town will also seek other continuous revenue streams like grant opportunities, according to Gillen.
“I believe it’s always best to hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” Gillen said.
Hempstead is not alone in Cuomo’s proposal to cut state aid. The cuts appear to target Long Island disproportionately, Gillen said.
Nassau County would lose $11 million in state funding, the most of any county in the state. The towns of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay would also lose nearly $1 million and $1.68 million, respectively.
Gillen said the cities appear to be spared of the cuts to funding in the budget, and that terminology is the basis for the cuts. Hempstead has a population of nearly 770,000, and if it were a city, would be the second largest in the state behind New York City, according to Gillen.
Gillen added that she is optimistic that the funding for the town can be restored to the budget after speaking with state Senators Todd Kaminsky and Anna Kaplan. If the funding is restored, the cuts will be not be made.