North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena accused Democrat Council Member Veronica Lurvey of misleading the public over a $3 million town budget amendment she announced last fall that has not yet been allocated.
“I’ve been incredibly disappointed to see Councilwoman Lurvey intentionally mislead the public for more than six months regarding this,” DeSena said in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “To promise something in a budget and then subsequently fail to deliver on it is a clear breach of the public’s trust.”
In the 2023 town budget, the town board on Oct. 25 unanimously approved amendments submitted by Lurvey that included a 5% tax cut, an additional $2 million allocation for street paving, $1 million allocation for concrete sidewalk and road repairs, $1 million allocation for tree trimming and removal and $250,000 for beautification projects.
During the beginning of the work session on Oct. 25, Lurvey gave a statement on her proposed amendments, saying $3 million will also be allocated for flood mitigation and stormwater management. When questioned by DeSena on the details of the allocation, Lurvey said the money would have to be allocated through a resolution.
“These are critical infrastructure projects that we need to put in place in order to address and prepare for the 50- or 100-year storms we are having on a regular basis now,” Lurvey said during the hearing.
Paul Wood, the director of finance for DeSena’s office who was acting as the town’s interim comptroller at the time the budget was approved in January, confirmed to Blank Slate Media there was not a $3 million allocation of funds for stormwater mitigation in the final budget.
“As acting comptroller for the last 10 months, I can confirm that this supposed $3 million allocation for stormwater mitigation is contained nowhere within the final 2023 budget passed by the Town Board,” he said.
Lurvey called DeSena’s accusations “disingenuous” and “election-year politics,” saying there are additional revenue sources to cover the costs and that funding details will be in the coming weeks now that the town has a new full-time comptroller, Kristen Schwaner, who was appointed in April.
Schwaner’s appointment filled a position that was left vacant in January 2021.
The council member said residents often reach out to her office for help on drainage issues and called on the supervisor to work with the Town Board on the critical improvements.
“Petty verbal snipes are unbecoming of a supervisor, and she should know better. If she would have talked to me directly, instead of sending a ridiculous statement to the press, she would recognize our path forward and avoid looking so juvenile,” Lurvey said in a statement.
“I stand by my budget amendments, which gave residents a 5% tax cut while also providing quality-of-life services and maintaining a stable fund balance, which were passed unanimously,” Lurvey added. “Specifically, my amendments included an additional $2 million for street paving, an additional $1 million for concrete sidewalk and road repairs, an additional $1 million for tree trimming and removal, an additional $250,000 for beautification, and still a 5% tax cut.”
Lurvey posted on her Facebook page on Nov. 21 after the amendments were approved a graphic that included $3 million “for flood mitigation/stormwater repairs” that were alongside the 5% tax cut and five other amendments.
During her rebuttal to DeSena’s State of the Town address in January, Lurvey mentioned the four amendments and tax cut, but not the $3 million for flood mitigation.
In North Hempstead’s spring newsletter that was mailed to all town residents, the budget highlights do not include the $3 million for flood mitigation.
DeSena further questioned why Lurvey “would fight tooth and nail” to delay the vote to allocate $3.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Manhasset sewer project, which the Town Board unanimously approved in April after months of delays in which town Democrats called for answers about the project, including the legality of using the federal money for the sewers.
“Clearly, she had other designs for those funds, namely using it to salvage her broken budget promises,” DeSena said. “This is yet another example of the Town Board majority playing politics with taxpayer funds, and as chief budget officer of the Town I will not stand idly by in the face of this deception.”
Lurvey reiterated her previous sentiments that allocating the funds without proper due diligence would have been reckless, which was echoed during often-tense board meetings by fellow Democrats Peter Zuckerman and Mariann Dalimonte.
“In terms of the Manhasset sewer project, I waited for legal advice before allocating $3 million. I would never allocate funding without legal support for the propriety of the allocation,” Lurvey said. “To do otherwise as the supervisor pushed for would be reckless to the extreme and potentially subject the residents and Town to clawbacks and costly litigation. The persistent and politically motivated mischaracterization by the supervisor is getting tiresome.”
During the Nov. 17 town board meeting, both DeSena and Lurvey submitted a resolution to allocate ARPA funds for town projects.
North Hempstead received $10,114,021.27 total in ARPA money, which was received in two installments in the summers of 2021 and 2022.
Within Lurvey’s resolution of 14 projects totaling $9 million in allocation, $3 million was for townwide stormwater and flood mitigation. Of those projects, 13 were excluded after an amendment to only include $2 million allocated for replacing sidewalks along Westbury Avenue in Carle Place.
DeSena’s resolution, which also included $2 million for Westbury Avenue and $3.1 million for the sewer project, was withdrawn.