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Nov 21, 2008 6:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

2009 budget adopted by Southampton Town Board

Nov 21, 2008 6:26 PM

Though the final financial impact won’t be calculated until November 25, the 2009 operating budget for Southampton Town was adopted at a special meeting last Thursday, November 20, the deadline for filing the spending plan.

The $82.5 million budget, the first proposed by Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, calls for a 5-percent hike in the tax rate, the maximum percentage allowed under the town’s tax cap law. According to Ms. Kabot’s office, the increase was necessary because of the nearly $7 million in deficits in the police and highway funds that accumulated between 2004 and 2007.

Homeowners with houses valued at $500,000 will pay approximately $32 more in town taxes next year. However, that figure could change if a proposed amendment by Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi is adopted.

In August, some $3 million from the general fund was used to purchase 5.7 acres of land in Westhampton. Mr. Nuzzi believes that money from the Community Preservation Fund should be used to support that purchase and is proposing that $3 million be transferred from the CPF back to the general fund, with half going to keep the tax rate in check. The board will decide on Mr. Nuzzi’s plan on Tuesday, November 25.

In the meantime, Ms. Kabot is using about $4.2 million in surplus funds to keep the tax rate below the mandated 5-percent level, a move the supervisor said was unavoidable. This leaves about $800,000 of surplus funds in town coffers.

With a narrowing revenue stream flowing into Town Hall, the board also eliminated 17 vacant positions and called for a hiring freeze for new employees starting next year that will begin January 6 and will run through January 1, 2010.

During that time, there will be no new employees hired except those positions that the town is contractually or legally obligated to fill. Also, the freeze does not include any vacancies that may open up on the Town Board, or any appointed boards or committees. Additionally, during the same time frame, any post vacated by a town employee will not be filled.

At a savings of nearly $500,000, the board abolished a junior civil engineer position in the Public Works Department, a Justice Court cashier, a parks facilities supervisor, a clerk typist in the town attorney’s office, a neighborhood aide in Human Services, a housing program supervisor in Community Development, a confidential secretary in the town clerk’s office, an office applications specialist in Information Systems, a senior clerk typist in Parks and Recreation, a building construction coordinator in the Department of Buildings and Building Management, a senior assessment assistant in the assessor’s office, a chief planner in Land Management, a code enforcement officer in Public Safety, a senior clerk typist in Land Management, a sanitation worker in Waste Management, a public safety dispatcher in the Police Department, and a clerk typist at the animal shelter.

The board also reduced the salary for the director of sustainability in Land Management by $2,500 and reduced overtime pay for a senior clerk typist in the department by $4,000. Travel expenses were also cut by nearly 70 percent by reducing travel funds in 28 departments.

By cutting the positions and reducing salaries and expenses, the town expects to reduce the general fund tax levy by $200,000, the Part-Town Fund by $40,500, and the E911 Fund by $72,000. The measures will decrease the appropriation for the Tax Stabilization Fund balance by $32,420 and the appropriation of the Land Management Fund balance by $124,250.

Another unknown impact on the budget will be how much in CPF revenue will be allocated to eligible school districts for tax relief. Mr. Kabot had proposed $3.1 million in Payments in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOTs, to the Riverhead, Hampton Bays and Eastport-South Manor school districts, a significant reduction from the $4.8 million in subsidies the districts received in 2008.

PILOT money reduces the tax burden on residents who live in those school districts, and residents of Flanders, Riverside, and Northampton, who live in Riverhead School District, are likely to be the hardest hit.

Two plans have been introduced, and the Town Board was expected to choose between them on Tuesday, November 25. Ms. Kabot is suggesting establishing a CPF reserve fund that would allow the town to pay out roughly $3.5 million in PILOTs for 2009, while Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst and Mr. Nuzzi support providing the same $4.8 million in relief it provided in the current year.

Their plan is based upon a proposal by state lawmakers that would mandate PILOT payments to be based on the CPF revenue collected the year before the current budget is adopted. In other words, PILOT payments for 2009 would be based on CPF revenues from 2008. As it stands now, PILOT payments for 2009 are based on projected CPF revenue for 2009.

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It is discouraging that the Board choose to cut human services and instead kept the Supervisor's free vehicle and free gasoline plus the additional staff in her office. Obviously, nothing has changed at Town Hall.
Brian, it would be interesting to your readers if you list the exact 17 cut positions and the department the job was in.
By Hampton (50), Westhampton on Nov 22, 08 11:52 AM
As requested above, would the Press consider listing the seventeen cut positions including the department affected?
By EastEnder (6), Sag Harbor on Nov 22, 08 10:35 PM
The list of the 17 positions is on the way, thanks for your interest.
By Brian Bossetta (17), Southampton on Nov 23, 08 6:49 PM
Can you go one step further, and report when the positions first became vacant? Abolishing 17 positions that have been vacant since 1982 is useless, and the $200,000 is really an accounting slight of hand.
By CommonSense (71), Southampton on Nov 24, 08 1:01 PM
True, eliminating those vacant positions are smoke and mirrors. And they added a Sustainability position, do they really need that right now? And a public relations person for the Supervisor? There is no more traffic so why is there still a Traffic department with two full time people? This is the biggest tax hike we have gotten in eight or nine years.

By Hampton (50), Westhampton on Nov 26, 08 8:23 AM