Capping off 8-1/2 months of aggressive programmatic and policy changes for America’s largest township, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony J. Santino delivered his first State of the Town Address at Hempstead Town Hall. A packed Nathan L. H. Bennett Pavilion at Town Hall included business leaders, town board colleagues, other government officials and members of the public. The Supervisor offered a comprehensive speech, along with a video presentation, detailing his efforts to maintain town programs and reduce governmental costs. Santino also outlined a progressive agenda for the future.
Pointing to a graph that displayed the allocation of property tax dollars, the Supervisor explained that Hempstead Town provides the lion’s share of municipal services, excepting police protection, and public education while comprising only 9¢ of the average homeowner’s property tax dollar. Residents of incorporated villages pay just over 2¢ of every property tax dollar to the town. Town services and programs provided for those tax dollars include a highway department that maintains 1,200 miles of roadway, parks’ staff charged with operating 200 parks, pools, beaches, golf courses and marinas, the delivery of water to 121,000 customers and caring professionals who serve 190,000 senior citizens through the municipality’s Senior Enrichment Department. Some of the township’s other facilities and services feature three nature preserves, a state-of-the-art renewable energy park, a heralded camp and program for young people with special needs, a full service building department, a Town Clerk’s Office that handles an array of licensing and record retention services, street lighting services and a myriad of other operational resources that comprise the best quality-of-life programs offered by any local government.
“From ensuring that residents receive pure and plentiful drinking water to paving and plowing town roadways, our municipal workforce is dedicated and efficient,” said Santino. “And, neighbors who enjoy top-notch golf courses and young people who participate in the town’s theatre program for kids with special needs can attest to the fact that our workers care and are committed to serving people.”
Financial Responsibility, Controlling Government Costs
Santino discussed the importance of delivering the finest municipal services while producing responsible budgets and controlling the costs associated with government programs. Hempstead Town has received awards for its transparency in budgeting, has earned solid ratings from Wall Street credit rating agencies and has made impressive strides in slashing governmental costs for its taxpayers.
The township’s 2016 budget has witnessed the Supervisor’s strong leadership as he has slashed the municipal spending plan by $9 million. Some of the key cost-efficiencies include an across-the-board 20% cut in departmental discretionary spending and a re-engineering of sanitation collection routes, which will result in $1.8 million in savings. Outsourcing a portion of the water testing by the town’s Water Department will result in $850,000 in annual savings while eliminating outside contracts, along with cutting fuel oil consumption, in the Conservation and Waterways Department will reduce that department’s budget by $415,000. Finally, one of the most impressive cost-saving initiatives under Santino’s watch is the conversion of 50,000 town streetlight fixtures from conventional bulbs to high-efficiency L.E.D. fixtures. This effort will produce $2 million in savings on an annual basis.
Right-sizing the municipal workforce is another undertaking that Santino has met with a sense of genuine purpose. An early retirement incentive will result in $6.5 million in savings in 2017. Controlling the hours worked by employees and right-sizing the workforce is anticipated to save $8 million in 2016.
“By carefully managing the cost of government operations, we can keep the tax burden that is borne by homeowners and businesses to a minimum,” stated Santino.
Innovative Government Partnerships
While acutely focusing on strict budgetary oversight, Santino’s government is forging strategic partnerships with the private sector and other entities to achieve goals while mitigating the financial impact on taxpayers. Recently, the township secured the donation of 50 A.E.D.s (Automatic Electronic Defibrillators) for use at town parks, pools and senior citizen centers at no cost to taxpayers. The units, which can save lives in the event of a cardiac emergency, were provided through the generosity of Mercy Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital.
Fighting for Our Suburban Quality of Life
America’s largest township has taken bold steps to preserve the quality of life enjoyed by its residents. Some of the recent initiatives advanced by Santino, which he mentioned in his address, were:
· Anti-BDS Legislation
The town has passed a law requiring all entities doing business with the town to attest that they will not boycott Israel and other U.S. allies.
· Recycling for Kids with Special Needs
Hempstead Town kicked off a beachside recycling program, the proceeds of which will benefit kids with special needs.
· Making Beaches/Pools “No Drone Zones”
Santino passed legislation, keeping drones away from beaches, pools, parks to protect residents’ privacy and ensure safety.
· Fighting Zombie Homes/Businesses
The Town Board passed strong zombie home/business legislation that puts banks on the hook for the cost of upkeep on properties on which they foreclose.
· Helping Town Commuters
Santino and his administration drastically increased parking spaces at local train stations reserved for town residents exclusively.
Building Upon Our Past, Realizing the Promise of Our Future
Looking toward the future, the Supervisor outlined a progressive agenda to better serve town residents, control costs and enhance the local quality of life.
· Permanent 9-11 Memorial
Santino has just unveiled a permanent 9-11 monument planned for Town Park Point Lookout.
· Increasing Public/Private Partnerships
The Supervisor’s agenda includes working with business and community partners to control costs and enhance pride on the part of stakeholders.
· Dog Park at Newbridge Park
The town is poised to open its first dog park as part of a pet-friendly agenda.
· Housing Opportunities
Hempstead Town will build more affordable homes and is expanding the stock of train station friendly rental housing.
· Expanding L.E.D. Conversion
The Santino administration is building on the success of its conversion of conventional streetlamps to high-efficiency L.E.D. fixtures by embarking on an interior lighting conversion effort.
· More Multi-Lingual Services
The town is in the process of expanding services and the number of languages that it can accommodate.
Building a Better Town Together
“We’ve done a great deal, working together, to create an idyllic place in which to live, work and raise a family,” concluded Santino. “We offer top-notch governmental services at the lowest possible cost. Our leaders are accountable, and our township’s workers are dedicated and care. Focused on progressive growth, committed to preserving our area’s suburban character and unwavering in our mission to provide the best quality of life anywhere, our future is bright and filled with promise.”