Armed with the highest Wall Street credit ratings available and a budget that maintains all services in full force, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and the entire Town Board approved a 2012 budget on Tuesday that freezes all town taxes at 2011 levels. Murray observed that the spending plan blazes a trail of best budgetary practices and fiscal responsibility at a time when many governments at all levels are in fiscal free fall.
"I am pleased that our budget holds the line on all town taxes, particularly during these difficult economic times," said Murray. "What's more, the town's top-notch Wall Street credit ratings assure residents that the spending plan we have set forth is a sound and sensible financial document." "We are proud to support a budget that holds the line on taxes and maintains vital services for our residents," added Senior Councilman Anthony Santino. "Achieving a tax-freeze budget in our township is a major accomplishment, especially during a difficult economic time for our nation."
Blazing a Trail of Fiscal Responsibility
In announcing the 2012 budget, the Supervisor quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson's cautionary note that states, "Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Murray pointed out that many governments have simply taken the "path" of least resistance in budgetary decision making - a path that is littered with cuts to services, slashes in capital improvement programs, prospective layoffs, increases in borrowing to unsustainable levels, as well as a reliance on "one shot" revenues and other fiscal gimmicks - in an attempt to prop up sagging budgets.
"I will not take Hempstead taxpayers down that path," insisted Murray. "Our township is going instead where there is no path and is blazing a trail of sound and sensible budgeting practices. No gimmicks, no 'one shot' revenues, no service cuts...just an honest, forthright budget that funds the finest municipal services at the lowest possible cost."
Value for Your Tax Dollar
Hempstead's administration offers superior value for the property tax dollar, according to town officials. The township provides the lion's share of local services enjoyed by residents, excepting primary/secondary education and police protection, while constituting only nine cents ($.09) of every tax dollar (less than one cent of every tax dollar goes toward town services for residents of incorporated villages).
Controlling Costs & Pursuing Grants
From controlling debt service costs for our government to managing salary and wage costs, Murray's government is constraining costs within its control in a forthright and honest manner. At the same time, the town's team of governmental managers is aggressively pursuing state and federal grant funding to deliver services and finance projects while minimizing any direct impact on taxpayers.
Budgeted salaries and wages in the 2012 budget will rise less that 1% or $1.5 million. By contrast, total compensation costs in our region for private sector employees during the most recent one-year period for which data is available rose by 2.6%.
One last example of this administrations fidelity when it comes to living within its means is evidenced through the town's remarkable reduction in debt service cost. Our government has bucked a national trend of gluttonous borrowing to meet governmental obligations. In fact, Hempstead Town has reduced total debt service cost by $6.3 million since 2010 (includes 2012 proposed budget).
A leader in environmentally conscious projects, Hempstead Town has expanded its renewable energy park with solar, wind, geothermal and hydrogen energy thanks to a $4.6 million federal grant. Six new affordable homes are being completed with $1.3 million in state and federal funding. Finally, downtown business districts in Elmont and other areas are receiving federally financed beautification and revitalization work.
Investing in the Future/Stimulating the Economy
As other governments have curtailed capital improvements, Murray's administration knows that a robust capital agenda will help supplant private sector jobs lost to economic hardship while improving roadways, infrastructure and municipal buildings. In fact, the town's $50 million capital program for 2012 will keep town streets and facilities in tip-top shape and even fund the construction of a $6 million state-of-the-art recreation center for children with special needs.
Hempstead's Town Board has approved three major development projects that will restore luster to downtowns, remove blight and provide needed housing options. From a 300,000 square foot commercial project at the former Avis headquarters in East Garden City to train commuter-friendly apartments that are replacing West Hempstead's seedy Courtesy Hotel, the private sector is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in our township while creating hundreds of jobs.
Freezing Taxes, Blazing a Trail
"Some other governments may put taxpayers at risk by engaging in fiscal sleight of hand or budgetary gimmicks," concluded Murray. "I won't do that. Hempstead Town is freezing taxes and blazing a trail of fiscal stability. That's why we've earned the respect of Wall Street rating agencies and the trust of neighbors on Main Street."