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Huntington Town Board Approves 2016 Budget

The Huntington Town Board, at its November 5 meeting, approved a $188,663,991Town budget for 2016, a spending plan that remains within the state’s tax cap while maintaining services at a time when revenues are stagnant and fixed costs are increasing.

The budget, which was presented by Supervisor Frank P. Petrone in September, contains no new initiatives, but it does follow through on implementing ones that began in 2015, including construction of Sweet Hollow and Burrs Lane Parks and design and initial construction for the James D. Conte Community Center at the former Huntington Armory. While overall spending is projected to decrease slightly, the proposal calls for a $1.9 million increase in the Highway budget, reflecting increased costs due to last winter’s severe weather. That increase was offset by little to no increases in the other major Town funds, and decreased spending in some of the special districts.

Among the highlights in the budget are:

— a slight reduction (0.2 percent) in overall spending.

— a 1.3 percent increase in the overall property tax levy. The levy is increasing despite a slight overall decrease in spending because of a decrease in use of Town reserves to fund operations. Looking only at the three major funds (General, Highway and Refuse), the increase for the average Town homeowner is projected at $29.16.

— a $15 million capital budget that focuses on improvements to the Town’s infrastructure such as rehabilitation of various plants and pump stations in the Dix Hills Water District and  headworks improvements in the Huntington Sewer District. Funding is also included for road rehabilitation, drainage infrastructure and paving.

— salary freezes for all elected officials and appointed and management personnel. At the November 5 meeting, the Town Board approved a Management Plan outlining various benefits for appointed and management personnel and setting parameters for items such as leave time and medical contributions.

“This was a difficult budget to put together, given the limitations of the tax cap and increases in costs such as health insurance,” Supervisor Petrone said, “But I am pleased that we were able to maintain services and programs our residents want and have come to expect.”

In other action, the Town Board:

— extended for another five years the agreement with Starflower Experiences Inc. for educational uses of Manor Farm Park. Starflower a annually provides at least six free environmental education programs to Huntington residents , as well as various maintenance and security services at the facility.

— authorized the Supervisor to execute an agreement with an artist to design, fabricate and install a public art project for Sweet Hollow Park. A selection panel from the Town’s Public Art Advisory Committee reviewed 13 submissions in response to a request for qualifications, and selected a recommended artist, Suzanne Lee of Portland, OR, and an alternate artist, Beatrice Colon of New York City. The budget for the project is a total of $85,000 from the Town’s Environmental Open Space and Parks Improvement (EOSPA) fund, of which $20,000 is in the 2015 Capital Budget.

— approved the purchase of the 3.5-acre Tannenbaum Property in Fort Salonga, at a price not the exceed $897,000. The acquisition was recommended by the Town’s EOSPA committee for use as passive parkland with trails. Trails currently on the property are used by hikers and runners.

— authorized spending up to $265,000 from the neighborhood enhancement fund for upland improvements as part of the Halesite Marina reconstruction, including porous pavers to manage storm water in a more sustainable manner than conventional drainage, for continuation of the brock harbor walkway and for decorative street lighting.

— accepted the donation of landscaping from Main Street Nursery and Florist for landscape planting and maintenance for the two roundabouts on New York Avenue in Halesite.

— approved waiving parking meter fees in Huntington Village during the upcoming holiday Season, from November 27 to January 1.

— scheduled a December 8 public hearing on a proposal to acquire, with the North Shore

Land Alliance, a conservation easement on three-acre parcel adjoining the Wawapek Preserve in Cold Spring Harbor.

— scheduled a December 8 public hearing on a proposed amendment to Town Code that would add the classification “bistro” for certain food service restaurants such as pizzerias that are smaller that restaurants and different from food shops, as well as defining a “tavern/bar.” The addition of the classification would allow for specific regulations for those types of businesses.

— scheduled a December 8 on a proposed zone change requested by Gurwin Senior Housing to erect a 237-unit, lifecare-type community offering different levels of health services to senior residents. The property is near the intersection of Commack and Hauppauge Roads in Commack.

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