Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray has presented her 2014 tax-cut budget proposal. The Murray budget reduces town taxes, the Supervisor’s third consecutive tax-cut budget. At the same time, the Supervisor’s administration has earned the highest Wall Street credit ratings available, testament to Hempstead’s fiscal health and Murray’s sound and sensible financial policies. Finally, Supervisor Murray announced that she is presenting another tax-cut budget to provide relief to families who are struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy and others who are simply dealing with a prolonged national economic slump.
“Homeowners are confronting extensive financial and personal hardship, rebuilding their homes and their lives in the wake of Superstorm Sandy,” said Murray. “Still other residents are coping with the effects of a prolonged national economic downturn. In times like these, local governments have an obligation to extend a helping hand to ease the burden borne by local taxpayers. Indeed, my 2014 budget proposal reduces town taxes.”
Post Sandy Governing, Budgetary Impact
While several local governments have confronted devastating damage to parks marinas, beaches and other facilities as a result of Sandy, Hempstead Town has restored all of its facilities that are used by the public, and has resumed all programs. Unfortunately, the financial burden imposed by Mother Nature’s wrath has been significant. In the first 30 days after Hurricane Sandy, Murray’s government expended $29 million on debris removal and cleanup. The total cost of restoration of town facilities and property are estimated at $197 million.
Murray has steadfastly insisted on waiving building permit and other fees for those rebuilding or repairing Sandy-slammed homes. The town has also offered other helpful assistance. The township has foregone $913,000 in permit fees for building reconstruction, and has set aside the costly requirement for homeowners to secure a building variance to elevate homes to meet FEMA flood height requirements. Further, Murray’s administration has distributed food and supplies to those in need, offered “how to” home remediation seminars, opened 15 post-Sandy warming centers, repaired protective dunes along the coast and eliminated fees for replacement documents for records destroyed in Sandy (marriage and birth certificates, etc.).
“The town’s top-notch finances made it possible for us to waive almost $1 million in town fees to help Sandy victims,” observed Murray. “My government will not realize revenues from the pain and suffering of hurricane victims.”
Financial Policies: Earning Respect on Wall Street
Simply put, the ratings assigned to governments by Wall Street credit rating agencies stand as testament to a government’s fiscal health. Indeed, Hempstead Town has earned Wall Street’s highest credit ratings available. In awarding the town its top-level credit rating, Moody’s Investors Service stated, “The Aaa rating reflects the towns’ prudent fiscal management characterized by conservative budgeting practices, development of multi-year financial forecasts and formal fund balance policy…”
Three Consecutive Tax Cuts:
Justifying the Trust of Neighbors on Main Street
Wall Street credit ratings are a priority for Hempstead’s managers. At the same time, Murray’s government is committed to providing the tax relief that neighbors need during difficult economic times and in the wake of a devastating natural disaster. Murray has worked hard to cut taxes for three consecutive years. The chart on the right details this impressive accomplishment.
By reducing taxes, Murray’s government continues to enhance the “tax dollar value” provided by her municipality. In fact, Hempstead Town accounts for only 9¢ of residents’ property tax dollar (less than 1¢ for residents of villages), while the township provides the lion’s share of local services.
Controlling Costs, Securing Money Saving Grants
Supervisor Kate Murray’s government has performed well when it comes to controlling costs within its discretion, a key to responsible budgeting. One of the key examples of the town’s success in cost containment has been in the area of reducing annual debt service costs. While some governments have borrowed gluttonously, causing both total debt and debt service to spiral out of control, Hempstead Town is a model of fiscal restraint. The following chart illustrates the fact that the town has reduced annual debt service costs almost 15% over the 2010 amount.
Maintaining a lean and efficient workforce is an important element of governmental cost control. The town’s workforce in 2014 will be trimmed by 2.5 percent over the 2004 number. This workforce efficiency results in annual savings of $4.95 million.
“Going green and saving green” have gone hand-in-hand in Hempstead Town. On August 26, 2013, the town unveiled four new solar energy installations in one day. In addition to the environmental benefits of the projects, the financial costs of the projects were covered entirely by almost $500,000 in federal and state grants. The town has garnered almost $5 million in renewable energy grants over the last couple of years.
Hempstead Town’s Budget Bottom Line—We’re Cutting Taxes
Tough times call for decisive action. Murray’s government is reducing taxes in her 2014-spending plan by 0.5 percent or $1.2 million. In addition to the $261 million in property taxes to be levied, non-property tax revenues include $17.8 million in mortgage recording receipts; $3.8 million is state per capita aid and $18.7 million in refuse disposal income. The $431.9 million budget keeps a tight rein on spending. In fact, the plan constrains discretionary spending at the rate which consumer prices have risen for the most recent one year period (1.7 percent).
Weathering the Storm—We’re Back and Better Than Ever
Superstorm Sandy may have destroyed homes, damaged businesses and ruined property, but the forces of Mother Nature were no match for the resolve of determined Hempstead residents. The south shore of Hempstead Town is being revitalized, and Murray’s team is proud to be part of the renaissance.
On May 30, 2013, Murray launched a Sandy business recovery initiative that included television, Internet, newspaper and direct mail. The project drove residents back to south shore businesses. A $50 million job-boosting town capital program is investing in the south shore. A $6 million recreation center for children with special needs is nearing completion in Lido Beach, and a $1 million Oceanside soccer field is part of the local recovery. A July 2nd Hempstead Town affordable homes lottery, has paved the way for 5 new homes in storm-damaged Inwood. Kate Murray is proud to be partnering with Sandy-impacted neighbors as the south shore rebounds.
“Our hard-working families have always been there to help those in need,” concluded Murray. “Now it’s time for government to take responsibility, and extend a helping hand to residents who are struggling in the wake of Sandy and those coping with a depressed national economy. This tax-cut budget will provide needed relief, earn the respect of Wall Street and justify the confidence of neighbors on Main Street.”