North Hempstead Democrats panned Republican Supervisor Jennifer DeSena’s $163.9 million tentative budget for the town before voting to certify its review of the spending plan.
Council Members Robert Troiano and Veronica Lurvey voted against certifying the budget during a resolution that would turn it into a preliminary budget and officially set the voting date for the final budget as Thursday, Nov. 2. Democrats Peter Zuckerman and Mariann Dalimonte voted for certifying while saying there are issues that still need to be fixed.
“I am being asked to certify the completion of the review of the budget submitted by the supervisor when parts of that budget remain hidden from me,” Troiano said before voting. “I cannot in good conscience vote yes.”
DeSena’s second tentative budget of her administration includes a 10% property tax cut and maintains town services and programs. Director of Governmental Research Steven Pollack gave a brief presentation on the highlights of the budget before the meeting was opened to public comment, where three residents spoke.
Among the concerns for the Democrats was the potential impact on the budget from the town’s recent agreement on a four-year collective bargaining agreement with the CSEA Unit 7555, which represents over 80% of the town’s workforce.
The town in a press release issued Wednesday afternoon before the public hearing announced the agreement, which needs to be ratified by the labor union before the town board can approve the new contract. The four-year contract will run from Jan. 1, 2023, to Dec. 31, 2026.
Deputy Supervisor Joseph Scalero said during the budget workshop meeting Oct. 17 that the tentative budget was submitted before an agreement was made and that projections are based on numbers from the contract that expired earlier this year.
Lurvey added that she has issues with multiple cuts in the budget proposal, the lack of an agreement with Harbor Links Golf Course in Port Washington and the effect a $10 million tax cut could have on the town’s Aaa budget rating in the future.
“All budgets reflect priorities and involve difficult decisions to balance community needs and impact on taxpayers,” Lurvey said before voting. “At this point, there is such a lack of information that I cannot say that I have completed my review. I vote no.”
DeSena said that she expects amendments to be made and follow the same budget process as last year. After submitting her first tentative budget, DeSena and Lurvey both submitted amendments to the proposal that included an 11% and 5% tax cut, respectively.
“I expect amendments, I would love to get them before 7 p.m. the night before the budget hearing, but there will be amendments just as last year,” DeSena said in reference to when Lurvey’s amendment last year was submitted.
DeSena went on to say there were no cuts in the budget and that Highway Superintendent Douglas Schlaefer got what he asked for his department in the proposal.
Schlaefer said on Oct. 17 he was not asking for anything new for his department in the upcoming budget.
“We’re going to live within the confines of whatever budget is crafted here and we’ll successfully operate with that,” Schlaefer said to the town board.
Additional concerns from town Democrats include a $2 million cut to road paving, a $1 million cut to tree planting and maintenance, a $1 million cut to sidewalk work and a $250,000 cut to beautification funds.
On Oct. 17 Pollack said the Highway Department’s budget is decreasing in part due to one-time appropriations that were made last year that are not included in the proposal for next year.
Town board members can submit amendments to the preliminary budget up to 24 hours before the next town board meeting.