Town board unanimously approves amendments giving 5% tax cut after Democrats block 11% tax cut submitted by DeSena

Town board unanimously approves amendments giving 5% tax cut after Democrats block 11% tax cut submitted by DeSena
The North Hempstead Town Board holds a budget workshop on Tuesday, Oct. 25. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

The North Hempstead Town Board unanimously approved amendments to Supervisor Jennifer DeSena’s tentative budget for the year 2023 that include a 5% tax cut during a special meeting Tuesday night.

The amendments were submitted Monday afternoon by Town Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey.

Prior to unanimously passing the amendments submitted by Lurvey, the four Democrats, who make up a majority on the seven-person board, abstained from voting on amendments DeSena submitted on Oct. 11 to her original budget, which includes an 11% tax cut. 

“I am voting aye with a heavy heart knowing our residents could have had much more tax relief,” DeSena, a Republican, said during her vote on the amendments. 

Tuesday night was the second special meeting in the past week. On Thursday night, Democrats in a party-line vote tabled DeSena’s revised budget amendment that provided 11% tax cuts.

Democratic Councilwoman Marianna Dalimonte said Thursday night said she could not vote on DeSena’s amendments without seeing changes to each line item in writing.

Democratic councilmembers acknowledged that DeSena’s revised budget that was provided to them was on paper, not digital and more difficult to evaluate compared to years past. 

DeSena said several times Thursday night that the only changes between her tentative and revised budget was the increased use of reserve fund balances, 

On Oct. 11, DeSena called for an 11% tax cut to be included in the $158.4 million tentative budget for 2023 she had previously proposed. 

DeSena said the town’s current reserves are at least $26 million, well in excess of the minimum set by the town board in 2011.

In 2011, the town board enacted a fund balance reserve policy for the town’s general fund, requiring the town to maintain a fund balance reserve that is at least 10% of the town’s total general fund budget for the year. 

Dalimonte said on Tuesday night she cross-referenced part of DeSena’s tentative and revised budgets and found approximately 30 line-item changes. 

“Being transparent and saying you’re transparent are two different things,” Dalimonte said Tuesday night. “I am sick and tired of having to go through this and this is why I really can’t trust this process.”

The amended budget includes $89,235,036 in expenses for the general town budget, a $136,882 increase from the tentative budget due to the addition of four employees that includes laborers, an enforcement officer and an animal warden.  Additional funding was also included for the town’s oyster program.

General fund revenues are projected at $61,319,927, a $200,000 increase from the tentative budget due to the addition of a code enforcement officer for the town. 

Lurvey acknowledge her amendments were submitted and published to the town’s website Monday afternoon, giving the other six members on the board a little over 24 hours to prepare for discussion.

But, she said, the amendments are easy to read and detail where the changes are coming from financially. 

For amendments to the town’s outside village fund, which covers services for residents who live outside incorporated villages, the budgeted expenses are $44,772,898, a $4.25 million increase from the tentative budget.

The increase was a result of $2 million being allocated for street paving, $1 million allocated for concrete sidewalk and road repairs, $1 million allocated for tree trimming and removal and $250,000 for beautification projects. 

Lurvey said the difference between the 5% and 11% in tax cuts proposed by her and DeSena amounts to an average of $15 for taxpayers.

“With the difference in the tax cuts, we will be able to provide quality-of-life enhancements for all of our residents,” Lurvey said Tuesday night. “My proposals include critical quality-of-life initiatives that will make our community safer, more beautiful and provide the services that our hardworking residents expect.”

In response to a question by DeSena during the workshop, Lurvey said the general appropriated fund balance will be at 19.57% of the general fund budget, which complies with the 2011 policy mandating it be at least 10%.

The fund, she said, gives an approximate two-month cushion for emergencies that bond rating agencies recommend, which is 15% or 16%.

For the town outside village fund reserve balance, the amendments would leave it at 17.09% of the town outside village fund, which complies both with the policy and also gives a two-month cushion for emergencies, Lurvey said. 

Amendments can still be made to the preliminary budget for 2023. The town board will vote to adopt the budget on Thursday, Nov. 3. 

North Hempstead’s Town Board has routinely adopted the town budget before Election Day, which this year is Nov. 8.

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