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Apr 15, 2009 12:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Board holds budget hearing

Apr 15, 2009 12:40 PM

The Southampton Village Board last week held its first hearing on a proposed 2009-10 budget that cuts spending, and only one person came to challenge the proposal.

The proposed budget calls for spending to drop from $19.5 million this year to $19.2 million in 2009-10. Despite the cutbacks in spending, village property taxes are still slated to rise 1.8 percent, because revenue projections have also dropped.

Susan Stevenson said she pored over the Village Police Department’s budget and the police’s telecommunications budget stuck out to her. The police are spending tens of thousands of dollars on phone service and using seven different carriers, she pointed out, and she wanted to know why.

Police Chief William Wilson explained that the police have land lines, cell phones, satellite phones, a dedicated communication line for the fingerprinting database and cellular cards for the computers in patrol cars. He said that the costs were unavoidable and many are the result of mandates the village has no control over.

The final scheduled budget hearing is at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, at Village Hall.

Many categories in the budget on the revenue end are staying the same or increasing, such as projected fines and forfeitures collections going from $400,000 to $550,000, but expectations for interest on money the village has in the bank are dropping from $400,000 to $125,000. State aid based on mortgage taxes are expected to drop from $1.3 million to $1 million next year, village officials said. And projected building inspection fees are dropping from $1.4 million to $700,000.

The village has also slashed its estimated helipad revenue from $150,000 in 2008-09 to $75,000 in the coming fiscal year. The village paid about $30,000 last year to add an electronic billing and ticketing system to the helipad on Meadow Lane and estimated the system would rake in $150,000 its first year. Between June 2008 and January 2009, the village billed for $81,450 in landing fees.

There were 222 helicopter landings in August last year, and the village charged $125 or $150 each, depending on how big the helicopters were. But there were just 72 landings in September, three in December and zero in January.

“The traffic has dropped drastically,” Village Treasurer Stephen Funsch said Friday. He said some of the drop-off in helicopter activity can be attributed to the end of summer, but the chief reason is the global economic downturn.

Other Business

The Village Board adopted a local law last week that extends property tax relief benefits to the surviving spouses of deceased volunteer firefighters and ambulance members.

Mr. Robinson said the New York State Legislature recently passed a law allowing villages to create such a law, so the Village Board immediately took advantage of the opportunity.

“Statewide, there’s becoming a shortage of volunteers, and the state is always trying to do something to stimulate the volunteer enrollments,” he said.

In other emergency volunteer business, Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance recruiter Joe Hurley announced that the ambulance corps is holding a recruitment drive this month. He noted that the corps is looking for both full-time and part-time residents, including college students, and it welcomes volunteers who live outside the village as well, he said.

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