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Sep 26, 2012 11:45 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Supervisor Unveils Budget: Spending Stable, Consolidations Continue

Sep 26, 2012 12:03 PM

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst unveiled her proposed $82.7 million budget for 2013 on Tuesday night, touting the accompanying flat tax burden and an improving fiscal condition of the town.

The spending plan, if adopted as proposed by the supervisor, calls for an approximately $2.4 million increase in spending, driven primarily by contractual salary increases for town employees and by rising health care and pension benefit costs. But forecasts of rising revenues means that the budget proposes a tax levy for town residents equal to the 2012 levy, though individual property owners’ tax bills could be affected by changing assessments.

The budget will be the subject of a series of public hearings and, most likely, amendment proposals by members of the Town Board. A final budget must be in place by November 20.

In her address to the Town Board and residents at a meeting on Tuesday evening, the supervisor said the fiscal constraints represented in the budget, her third as supervisor, will be made possible by continued consolidations within town departments, ongoing controls on staffing costs and internal spending, heightened efficiency through reorganization and technological improvements, and new policies toward spending that will cap borrowing and, thus, the town’s annual debt burdens.

Reaction from across the aisle was optimistic at first glance, with a nod to the importance of keeping spending in check.

“Spending will be at issue, without question,” said Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi. “Keeping spending in check has been the priority from my perspective over the past couple of years, and to the extent that this budget accomplishes that, it will be good. Some of the organizational changes in here were things we had discussions about, and I think that’s a good idea, and I appreciate that the supervisor was open to that.”

Mr. Nuzzi noted that he was a strident supporter of the town’s hiring freeze that has contributed to the shrinking workforce and salary burden. “People fought me on the hiring freeze, but it’s been one of the integral things that’s saved us,” he said. “Instead of having to resort to these mass layoffs like other towns, we’ve been able to rely on attrition. It’s been painful, but we’ve protected our workforce.”

The supervisor highlighted the town’s fiscal turnaround during her administration: the elimination of some $7 million in deficits, an 18-percent reduction in the town’s staffing and substantial cuts in staffing costs, and positive reflections of the town’s financial stability by national credit agencies that has allowed for savings when borrowing. She also nodded to some of the challenges the town continues to face, such as skyrocketing health care and pension benefit costs for current and former employees—which leapt by double-digit increases again in 2012, pushing up spending in nearly every town department or fund with employees.

Absorbing those increases this year was helped somewhat by the improving economic condition nationwide and revenues from mortgage taxes that have inched upward over the last two years. Town Comptroller Len Marchese noted that in addition to the increased mortgage tax revenues and building department fees as construction continues to pick up, the town also will get slightly higher amounts of state aid in 2013 and an increase in Cablevision fees.

Nonetheless, the supervisor said, keeping tax levies flat for 2013 would be a challenge. “We have, I believe, accomplished a great deal in this budget,” the supervisor said. “This budget continues the town on a steady course toward financial stability.”

Foremost in that course has been streamlining operations and staffing at Town Hall and within the town’s various departments through centralized efficiencies, consolidating departments and trimming non-essential staff, primarily through attrition and retirement incentives. On Tuesday, Ms. Throne-Holst outlined how that will continue in 2013—if not through actual staffing reductions then through improved efficiency of the staff on hand.

She spotlighted a shift that she said is hoped will have both fiscal and community benefits: the consolidation of the town’s Code Enforcement, Public Safety and Bay Constables departments under the single umbrella of the town attorney’s office, and to move the code and safety staff to offices within Town Hall so they are closer to the attorneys and other code inspectors that their operations rely on.

Among the new policies represented in the budget that will further the effort to rein in spending, the supervisor said, is a change in the way the town makes large expenditures on equipment and vehicles. Rather than allowing the purchase of such items to be lumped into capital spending, paid for with long-term bonds, the supervisor said she plans to implement a “pay as you go” policy, requiring departments to fund purchases in their regular budgets—a fiscal constraint that the Town Board has been discussing with Town Comptroller Len Marchese in recent months.

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Great job by a great team
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Sep 26, 12 2:45 PM
Mazel Mazel, lets cross our fingers and hope the spirit of cooperation continues...
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Sep 26, 12 3:46 PM
Nice Job Madam Supervisor, Now some of us are still waiting to hear what you plan on doing about this disproportionate 60 Unit Section 8 motel that just appeared in our community? ***Crickets***
By 27dan (2854), Southampton on Sep 26, 12 6:42 PM
It said in the paper August 2012 - More than 100 people including Anna Throne Holst crammed into the Bridgehampton Community Center on Thursday night to, once again, air complaints about a new East Hampton Airport route that directs helicopters over homes in Noyac.
I would take helicopters over this (as Dan so eloquently put it "Disproportionate 60 unit Section 8 Motel) any day. It is to many for any one area and I would suspect it never would have materialized in Mrs. Holst's coddled Noyac.Come ...more
By Undocumented Democrat (2065), southampton on Sep 26, 12 7:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
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By G (342), Southampton on Sep 27, 12 7:22 AM
Don't give praise to the board give it too the governor for having the brains to implement a tax cap. This board needs to make employees split medical, and retirement benefits. The town can not afford to have double digit contributions to the pension fund. The town also has too raise the age of retirement for workers especially police officers. The taxpayers of Suffolk are having falling wages and record public assistance according to the latest census. The town has too get tough now because they ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Sep 27, 12 7:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
A lot of town employees DO pay towards medical and retirement benefits
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Sep 27, 12 5:56 PM
Unbelievable, there are still many areas to cut at Town Hall. Land management to be exact ! Their are several aspects of that department that can be privatized and not a taxpayer burden. Yet the Supervisor chooses to raise taxes and pat herself on her back. The press needs to do some research and they will find real saving in the budget.
By Yearround Resident (23), Southampton on Sep 27, 12 2:25 PM
chief is never happy-the board did a responsible job and should be given credit
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Sep 27, 12 2:56 PM
The major problems still remain. They raised there budget by 2 million that is ridiculous in this economy.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Sep 27, 12 5:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wow a 1200 page document and I can't find the new tax rate! Did the supervisor raise taxes or lower taxes does anyone know the answer.
By SHtaxwatch (4), Southampton on Sep 28, 12 5:43 PM
Still Crickets
By They call me (2826), southampton on Sep 29, 12 10:28 PM
What impact does this 1200 page tome have on my tax rate? What is the tax rate change? How many jobs are being cut? This document is hard to follow. The message from ATH says this is a structurally balanced budget which is impossible when it uses almost $1.5 million in surplus. If you look at the summary page the amount of spending is more than the revenues, so how is that structurally balanced?
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Sep 30, 12 12:02 PM
Exactly- its a deficit, you would think with both EH and SH towns budgets falsified only a few years ago that the Super would state the obvious- what is closer to reality is the town has a "structural" deficit, in that the mortgage tax receipts collected( for doing nothing) are doing well - the major driver of the deficit is the pension and health care costs- which appears to shock the super even though these costs have been growing exponentially for years. If any one doubts that the pension costs ...more
By bayarea (46), hampton bays on Sep 30, 12 5:58 PM
It is truly amazing that newsday and and the independent reported this story and stated there was no tax increase. Does anyone ever check the facts of the story? The rate went up just shy of 2% and it is not structurally balanced if you use 1.5 million in surplus. Any greenhorn accountant would know that, but I guess when you get a raise of 20,000 after 6 months on the job you do what you are told. No tax rate schedule in the budget and let's convolute it with 1200 pages. Great job!
By SHtaxwatch (4), Southampton on Oct 4, 12 12:21 PM
1 member liked this comment