Huntington – Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci has released the Supervisor’s Tentative Budget for 2021, presented to the Huntington Town Board by Town Clerk Andrew P. Raia at the September 15, 2020 Town Board Meeting, and in keeping with changes Lupinacci made to make the budget process more transparent at the start of his administration, the 2021 budget process will include public presentations relating to budget estimates.
In a letter addressed to his fellow Town Board members, Supervisor Lupinacci outlined his approach to the tentative budget:
"As Supervisor and Chief Financial Officer of the Town of Huntington, I am pleased to present my third Tentative Operating and Capital Budget for the Town of Huntington for 2021. I wish to thank the Town Comptroller’s Office, members of my staff, and all Town Department Directors and their Deputies for their input and guidance throughout this step in the budget process.
"Pursuant to New York State Town Law Section 106, I present this Tentative Budget for your consideration. I have taken a conservative approach to expenditure allocations, using previous actuals as a baseline for these costs. Particular focus was given to employee salaries, overtime and benefits. In addition, fuel, energy and other utility costs, contractual expenses and debt service payments were analyzed. I have incorporated realistic revenue budgeting, and have not relied upon one shot revenues as a means of balancing the 2021 Tentative Budget. We continue to provide current levels of service, despite a contractual collective bargaining salary increase for all union employees.
"As in prior years, the Town must comply with the New York State Tax Cap Act. This Act limits a local government’s overall growth in the property tax levy to 2 percent over the prior year’s levy, or to the rate of inflation, whichever is less. The 2021 Tentative Budget falls within the State mandated tax cap for 2021. The 2021 allowable levy growth factor is 1.56% with a tax base growth factor of .41% and an available carryover which allows us a proposed increase of 1.94% over the 2020 tax levy. Also, despite the many challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town remains in full compliance with the Tax Cap.
"Since assuming office in 2018, I have continuously worked to increase overall governmental transparency. The live streaming of events has maintained its widespread approval as it brings our various proceedings directly to the residents, which is a vital amenity, especially during the recent pandemic under the restrictions associated with the Governor’s executive orders concerning open meetings. Updating the Town website and increasing communication with residents on social media and on government access television channels is an ongoing effort. The Town of Huntington is and will remain a model for an open and participatory government.
"To save on expenditures, whenever feasible, the Town continues to take advantage of the shared services arrangement with Suffolk County. Additional cost-savings have been maintained by continuing the dual-stream recycling program which has saved the Town approximately $866,000 in 2020.
"To protect its residents and employees, the Town took swift action in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, declaring an emergency early on, while keeping essential Town services available by phone and online during the State-mandated shutdown. Some of the services include, but are not limited to, HART bus, meal pick-up and delivery for seniors, and various youth intervention programs.
"The Town successfully implemented a safe and strategic reopening of parks, beaches, and other Town facilities. To maintain transparency and a direct line with the public, virtual public meetings were facilitated starting in the early days of the COVID-19 response and public participation has continued using the Zoom video and phone conferencing platform for public hearings. On the local economic front, numerous actions were taken to accelerate small business recovery, starting with the formation of a Small Business Economic Recovery Task Force, which ensured the voice of small business was heard while developing new business reopening resources; various application and permit fees were waived to ease the stress on local business and to assist in the reopening process. Moreover, the Town provided extensions for the payment of property taxes, the filing of property tax grievances and the deadline to apply for and renew property tax exemptions, which helped businesses and homeowners alike.
"Regarding our revitalization efforts in Huntington Station, we continue to make very positive and significant progress on numerous fronts. The Gateway Project is almost completed and it will provide studio, one and two bedroom apartments, as well as retail/restaurant space, immediately behind the pedestrian plaza on NYS Route 110, just north of Northridge. Columbia Terrace, a 14 unit veterans-preference affordable housing development on the west side of NYS Route 110 is rapidly approaching its completion. Another exciting project, Northridge Square, located just south of Northridge Street and on the east side of Route 110, will accommodate retail space (approximately 3000 square feet) and an additional 14 residential units (9 currently are pre-existing).
"Progress is being made with respect to the Huntington Station Sewer Feasibility and Design Study – Joint Report (funded by Suffolk County). This study/report is a comprehensive feasibility, design and planning initiative that is reviewing the current and future sewer infrastructure to improve the economic, housing and environmental aspects of the Huntington Station hub area, south of the LIRR trestle to Jericho Turnpike. We are in receipt of the draft results and await the finished product.
"The Town also recently revised its C-6 Zoning regulating mixed-use development to maintain the character and charm of the Huntington Village area. Based on input gathered from the public during and after the October 16, 2019 public hearing, these changes include increases to the required parking to be provided on-site and a new density limit on new construction or projects expanding the footprint of existing buildings, by requiring the combined square footage of upper floors not exceed 150% of the first floor. Huntington Village will also see a boost to its vibrancy and economic activity via the future Huntington Village Hotel. This venue will provide much-needed state-of-the-art accommodations for visitors looking to enjoy the attractions of the greater Huntington area.
"We have once again had our AAA credit rating reaffirmed by Moody’s. Our Capital Program continues to grow in 2021. Various park improvements are underway, such as the construction of a butterfly garden on Burr Road in Commack and enhanced recreational facilities, such as a new turf field at Manor Park and planning for an additional one at Otsego Park. Following the successful opening of the Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park at Elwood Park in the summer of 2018, we anticipate the planning and construction of an additional spray park located at Manor Field Park, adjacent to the Conte Center. Long-overdue infrastructure improvements were made, most in-house, to our waterfront facilities at Mill Dam Marina. The Town will continue to make progress on the much-needed deck repair and replacement at other marinas as well.
"For 2020, the Town secured $6,200,000 in funding for road and traffic safety rehabilitation measures, including $4,500,000 for road repaving and rehabilitation; $1,000,000 for drainage improvements; $400,000 for the installation of traffic signal and traffic calming improvements; and $300,000 in improvements to curbs, sidewalks, and pedestrian ramps. Included as well in the 2020 Capital Program are various infrastructure improvements, essential equipment purchases and technology enhancements.
"In 2021, I plan to reduce expenditures by implementing cost saving strategies and continuing the expanded use of shared services. The Town will continue to focus on renewable energy and ways of implementing sustainable programming at all Town facilities. Commencing construction activities associated with the James D. Conte Community Center will be a noteworthy goal. Next year will also see the introduction of a proposed law to modify the “I” zone to create an environment more conducive to a live-work-play arrangement via the addition of new permitted uses in the commercial corridor. Furthermore, 2021 will mark the early operational stages of the newly established Town tribunal.
"Streamlining government processes and finding innovative ways to take the burden off the taxpayer will remain a priority. The Town will work to maintain its strong financial standing and AAA-stable bond rating, and refinance outstanding bonds at lower rates to save taxpayer dollars. Also, our commitment to improving the quality of life and supporting beautification efforts town-wide, with special ongoing focus on the revitalization of Huntington Station will remain in full force.
"As always, my staff has been advised to make themselves available to you for review of the various expenditures and revenue figures contained herein. Further, I would be more than happy to meet with you to discuss any questions and input you may have. I look forward to working with you toward the successful adoption of the annual Operating and Capital Budgets for the Town of Huntington for 2021."
A public hearing on the Preliminary Budget for 2020 will be scheduled on or before November 5, as required by New York State Town Law, during which the public can weigh in on the merits of the budget.
In the spirit of transparency, Supervisor Lupinacci is continuing the tradition of transparency he started in 2018, the first year of his administration, including presentations to the Town Board and the public on budget estimates. The presentations will be live-streamed on the Town’s website at huntingtonny.gov/meetings and on government access TV channels Optimum 18 and FIOS 38.
The Preliminary Budget for 2021 must be adopted by November 20.
The Supervisor’s 2021 Tentative Operating and Capital Budget for the Town of Huntington can be found on the Town website on the page for the Department of Audit and Control: http://www.huntingtonny.gov/audit-control/