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Nov 20, 2015 1:10 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Adopts 2016 Budget

Anna Throne-Holst at the budget adoption meeting on Friday. BY ERIN MCKINLEY
Nov 24, 2015 10:15 AM

The Southampton Towo Board on Friday unanimously adopted a $91.1 million spending plan for 2016, adding $100,000 more than originally planned to the Town Highway Department for road improvements—although outgoing Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst was not happy about the move.

She voted in favor of the resolution, saying she was “waving the white flag,” but Ms. Throne-Holst said that in order to accommodate the new budget line for road repairs, which is approximately $1.4 million for next year, about $50,000 had to be removed from a fund that would have been dedicated to analyzing the infrastructure at Town Hall. Town officials want to see if a new facility is needed or what would need to be done to bring the current building, a former school, up to modern standards.

Another $50,000 had to be removed from the town facilities improvement fund.

“The challenge of finding as much revenue as we can for road improvements is one we grapple with throughout the year, but I do worry that we are taking money from the assessment of Town Hall and our facilities here for that purpose,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “We have an outdated facility. We have talked about that for as long as I have been in this building. This is a building that was never meant to be a town hall and never meant to be an office.”

The overall $91.1 million budget will increase spending by $2.5 million, or 2.82 percent, over the current year’s $88.6 million operating budget. It comes with a $59.3 million tax levy, an increase of $1.8 million, or 3.1 percent, over the current year’s $57.5 million levy. Because of various exemptions, the increase will not exceed a state-imposed cap of 2 percent on tax levy increases.

The approved plan will not increase the town tax rate, which is $1.42 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Owners of an average home assessed at $500,000 will pay $710 in town taxes next year—the same as this year, provided that their assessment has not changed.

Last week, Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said that while he is happy to have received more money from the Town Board, he had been hoping for something closer to $3.5 million for road repairs.

“We are very happy,” he added. “This means we will pave more roads and the public will see more of an improvement on the town’s infrastructure. We were hoping for a little more, to give us about 26 miles of paved roadway, but anything in the upward is a good thing.”

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, who will become a Suffolk County legislator in January, said she was happy more money could be allocated to the Highway Department to maintain town roads.

“I am grateful to my colleagues for agreeing that we should increase road funding,” Ms. Fleming said. “I am disappointed it is as low as it is, based on Superintendent Gregor’s presentation to us. Certainly, there is a balance that needs to be struck between debt service and when your infrastructure is not properly being maintained.”

Also on Friday morning, the Town Board voted down a new mid-year hiring policy that would essentially have extended a long-running hiring freeze at Town Hall. Ms. Fleming and Councilman Brad Bender both voted against the measure, while Christine Scalera and Stan Glinka approved it. Ms. Throne-Holst abstained from voting on the policy, saying it was not for her to make a decision on hiring and firing policies and that it should be left in the hands of the new Town Board taking office in January. Ms. Throne-Holst is stepping down from her post to run for the 1st Congressional District seat, and will be replaced by current County Legislator Jay Schneiderman.

Ms. Scalera said the proposed policy was not a hiring freeze but would require a full financial analysis to create any new staff positions mid-year.

“I think it is something that we already do,” Ms. Scalera said. “As we sit here as legislators, it is a matter of process—we have a job to do in 2015, and that is establishing the 2016 budget and how we want to see it. It is entirely appropriate to do this.”

According to Mr. Bender, though, the policy was unnecessary because of the careful review already in place whenever a new employee is hired. He said he was against any new resolutions further limiting the board.

“In January 2014, we had 501 full-time employees at Southampton Town Hall, and as of November 2015, we have 507 full-time employees,” he explained. “I think this board has done its due diligence in making sure we hire people as needed and as appropriate, and I do not think we need any additional legislation to tell us how and when to do our jobs.”

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Budget resolutions / when a resolution is WITHDRAWN, the reason for the withdrawal should be told to the public.
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Nov 20, 15 6:23 PM
All deciding votes cast by Bradley Bender should be thrown out!! He plans to resign in light of his surrender for dealing prescription drugs. I wonder just how many Southampton Town officials/employees are involved?
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Nov 24, 15 10:19 AM