Nearly 200 people gathered at Harbor Links Club House in Port Washington Wednesday afternoon to hear North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman deliver his tenth State of The Town address. The presentation was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Port Washington-Manhasset.
Kaiman highlighted the town’s preparation and response to Superstorm Sandy, the town's finances and its building department. He also touched on a plan to challenge Nassau County's tax assessments.
While Sandy didn’t cause the kind of devastation seen on the South Shore and elsewhere in the region, three North Hempstead residents lost their lives, he said.
Sandy's wind damage and power outages affected 90 percent of the town, and saw a storm surge that caused the waters to rise 24 feet. During and after the storm, the town’s 311 call center fielded 37,533 calls. And its solid waste facility took in over 80 million pounds of tree debris.
And while millions of dollars are being spent on restoration and mitigation, Kaiman said, “it is not clear how this storm will impact us financially," adding that the billions of dollars coming into the region will "most certainly be a stimulus to our economy."
But the town’s finances, he said, remain stable, pointing to the town’s bond rating to Aa1 or its equivalent. He attributed that stability to managing “municipal affairs, while making improvements, while paying down debt, while bringing in grants to cover new programs and projects, and all the while keeping our tax burden fairly steady.”
He added that the town is pursing national accreditation of its buildings department. With its application submitted, the town will be assessed by the International Accreditation Service this spring. The buildings department in 2012 issued 5,340 permits, up 5.2 percent from 2011. The department also issued 4,795 certificates for construction-related projects, up 13 percent from 2011.
The town is looking to initiate a North Hempstead alert, “taking a page from the Port Washington/Manhasset OEM,” Kaiman said. “This program will allow all town residents to be contacted through cell phones via text messaging during an emergency,” reaching “tens of thousands of residents at little expense and in real time.”
Speaking of the Nassau County property assessment, Kaiman said the town may soon assist filing a tax challenge with the county on behalf of its 75,000 homeowners. "Almost everybody now who challeges their assesment wins," Kaiman said. It's a system, he added, where those who don't challenge their assessments could pay as much as $5,000 more in taxes to make up for the losses for those who won, putting stress on the town and schools. Those whose homes were destroyed by Sandy would be welcome in the discussion in the coming months.
The full speech will be available online and on the town's cable channel and on North Hempstead TV.