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Jun 24, 2009 3:12 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Supervisor proposes $1 million in budget cuts

Jun 24, 2009 3:12 PM

Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot is proposing a series of midyear cuts that would trim $1 million of spending in an effort to balance the 2009 budget, and she said an additional $1 million in cuts will be needed to craft a balanced budget for 2010.

Ms. Kabot said she is expecting a $2 million shortfall due to a dropoff in mortgage tax revenues, and her proposed cuts aim to compensate for that decline.

At the same time, the Town Board is considering amending the town’s tax cap law, which mandates that the tax rate cannot be increased more than 5 percent from the prior year, to allow the town to break the cap to make payments as part of the town’s deficit reduction plan. Through that plan, the town must pay back inter-fund loans from the general fund that were allocated to the police and highway funds from 2003 through 2007, which resulted in deficits to those funds of some $7.5 million.

The debate over the tax cap amendment is being held open for another month and will be discussed again on July 28.

While Town Board members agreed that midyear cuts are necessary, they asked for another two weeks in order to get a more accurate picture of the town’s finances from Town Comptroller Tamara Wright. What board members want to see are the actual dollar amounts department heads have on hand and how much they have spent so they know exactly what the impact of any cuts would be.

Ms. Kabot, though she agreed to hold off on the cuts, said the town’s situation is “dire” and that the cuts have to be made.

“I don’t think department heads realize how serious this is,” she said. “We may not make payroll by the end of this year.”

Ms. Wright agreed that the department heads do not understand the severity of the town’s financial condition and urged the board to make it clear to them.

“No one is disagreeing with you that cuts are needed,” Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst said. “But we should sit down with our department heads and make sure we are dealing with actual numbers. I’m just not sure what these proposed cuts are based on.”

Among the cuts Ms. Kabot wants to make are the abolition of four vacant positions in town government: a senior kennel attendant at the animal shelter, with a $32,169 salary; a messenger in the town clerk’s office, at $34,786 per year; an environmental analyst, at $48,025 per year; and a principal planner in the land management department, at $66,669 per year. The positions would be terminated as of July 1.

Because some of these positions had been filled at various times during the year and some of the salaries already paid out, the total savings after July 1 would amount to $117,650. Ms. Kabot said.

The supervisor’s cuts also pare down overtime allocations for all union employees. Ms. Kabot said the contract with the union allows her to revoke the budgetary allocations for overtime and compensate workers with 1.5 days off for every day of overtime accumulated, rather than time-and-a-half pay for those days.

“This scenario is under management rights in the contract, and I have final say, with the department heads, as to money or comp time,” Ms. Kabot said, adding that this was a big issue with union employees who prefer money over time off. “But I have limited amounts of money and declining revenue, so I need to curtail overtime as an area of spending.”

Other cuts would be made to various contractual expenses and discretionary spending, such as office supplies, travel, seminars and training and part-time help, according to Ms. Kabot’s proposal.

While the supervisor agreed that more accurate numbers are needed, she argued that enacting her proposed cuts would “stop the spending now.”

“These are only proposals,” Town Councilwoman Sally Pope argued. “I can’t support this until I have actual numbers.”

Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi said the board could get the point across to the various department heads as to the town’s finances and still hold off on enacting the cuts until more accurate figures were produced.

Ms. Wright said she was working on providing the board members with more accurate figures. “I’ve inherited a lot of disorganization in this office,” she said. “It takes time to come up with more actual numbers.”

In the meantime, the board agreed to immediately send a memo to all the department heads and employees authorized to make expenditures emphasizing the troubled state of the town’s finances. Ms. Kabot said that any purchase order over $500 would have to cross her desk for approval. That threshold had previously been lowered from $5,000 to $1,000.

Ms. Kabot added that—along with cuts in expenditures—in order to balance the budget, expenses for the Highway Administration and Stormwater Abatement departments need to be shifted from the general fund to alternative sources, with Highway Administration funded through a tax levy and Stormwater Abatement through the Capital Program.

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Maybe they could sell the copper from the roof that was never authorized by the board members. Maybe one of Richard's two assistants with the identical titles each making over $100,000 could be released. I see lots of ways to cut the budget.
By Hampton (50), Westhampton on Jun 24, 09 3:18 PM
Let's start with 5% pay cuts for supervisor and board members-that shows signs of good faith.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 24, 09 3:38 PM
The cuts are long overdue.

Permitting the Town Board to lift the 5% tax cap is a mistake. It is there for a reason, to control spending. The taxpayers should not be punished with tax increases in this economy because the Town Board failed monitor the books properly.

Every quote from Town officials is: "We have no idea of the state of the Town's finances". Lifting the cap will only give the Town Board more room to screw up.

By CommonSense (71), Southampton on Jun 24, 09 4:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
Good move, Linda -- or should I say, Good election year move!

I genuinely hope this isn't the latter.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jun 24, 09 5:06 PM
Sure, let's cut more staff from the Animal Shelter - pretty soon the dogs will be in charge of filling their own bowls and letting themselves out on bathroom breaks, while the cats clean their litter boxes.!

Take away from the ones who can't defend themselves or complain to the press - another good election year move!

So not impressed.
By barnbabe (64), westhampton beach on Jun 24, 09 5:32 PM
What about cutting the $100,000 salary for the job created for Brautigan as part of his demotion? What about cutting Blowes' salary? This is fluff -- the real story is the removal of the tax cap so they can begin gouging the tax payers again. The entire Planning Dept. could take a hike -- or go to Argentina -- and the Town would be richer and better for it.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Jun 24, 09 5:49 PM
This budget is about to hit a flock of birds on takeoff--too bad Sully is not at the controls. There will be no soft landing in the cards for the taxpayer--prepare for impact.
By Doug Penny (64), Lexington, Virginia on Jun 24, 09 6:08 PM
The town needs money. I need a home. If the town allows me to build a small single family residence on my R-40 property (***outside the wetlands***) they can increase my $6.90 property tax to at least $5,000.00. Reasonable people can agree that this is a win-win proposition for everyone.
By William Haley (7), East Quogue on Jun 24, 09 7:04 PM
Good move Linda - its difficult to be cutting but you have to and you recognize the degree of the problem. You need to be considerate of the workforce - they are not to blame - but in return the workforce needs to realize the immediate savings is in personal service. Concessions are called for on the union's part - they should not take the negative role -they are as much part of the problem as the solution. Perhaps easier said than done but you can do it

will need to sacrifice ...more
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Jun 24, 09 8:49 PM
The tax cap law should be untouchable without voter approval. Its our only protection against irresponsible government.
By eastquogueguy (22), East Quogue on Jun 24, 09 9:04 PM
who in the heck voted for this one...?
By hamptons surfer (79), southampton on Jun 25, 09 6:28 AM
If the positions are vacant and not needed why were the filled during the year?
By 1whbny (5), Westhampton Beach on Jun 25, 09 8:09 AM
How about getting rid of the whole entire building department. There is not a
sole in that department that knows what the hell they are doing. They can all
be fired and some new fresh employees should get their jobs. That place
is a complete joke.
By J. Totta (106), Sag Harbor on Jun 25, 09 9:22 AM
STAMP on that, J. Totta!
By HEJIRANYC (32), Sag Harbor on Jun 25, 09 10:13 AM
To 1whbny

The postions were probably filled at the beginning of the year and then went vacant and not filled, but the full annual salary was still carried on the books. An example would be an employee is earning at a rate of $50,000 a year, works until June 30th, and then leaves. The position is then eliminated and the unspent salary of $25,000 becomes the savings for the year.
The Board really needs to act on this quickly and not waste time.
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Jun 25, 09 10:56 AM
I'm sorry, ATH and Pope can't support this why? Do they think that once they have "real numbers" they won't have to cut millions? They know what they budgeted for mortgage revenue and they know the projected mortgage revenue. Comp. time in lieu of overtime is a good idea. Cutting travel expenses is a good idea. Why do NOTHING? At least do SOMETHING. The longer they pay overtime and "travel expenses", the more people will be laid off. For all of Kabot's bad decisions, these are some great ...more
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on Jun 25, 09 2:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Salaries of Town employees of greater than $50,000 shuld be ablt to be posted along with their positions. Its seems that there is alot of fluff at the top of the adminstration that should be trimmed. The people need to know who is working for us, what they do and how they are paid. You can only cut so much after that certain functions cannot occur but you cant cut on fiction you need fact. Shoot first ask later is not good managemanet skills, which got us here in the first place.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jun 26, 09 6:44 AM
The Salaries of Town employees of greater than $50,000 shuld be ablt to be posted along with their positions. Its seems that there is alot of fluff at the top of the adminstration that should be trimmed. The people need to know who is working for us, what they do and how they are paid. You can only cut so much after that certain functions cannot occur but you cant cut on fiction you need fact. Shoot first ask later is not good managemanet skills, which got us here in the first place. Last paying ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jun 26, 09 6:51 AM
Let's cut the patronage jobs that cost the taxpayers millions of dollars each year in wages, benefits and "unfunded" retirement liabilities that will haunt taxpayers for the next 5 decades. At what point will Linda, Chris and Nancy hone up to their past acts. This mess can't be blamed on the new board members...it goes back years! Walk up Southampton.
By Dodger (161), Southampton Village on Jun 26, 09 9:54 AM
Cut town government services, period! Do you think that everyday life will be affected by cutting town services? What they do affecets everyday people very little. With the exception of the police and fire departments, there isn't much else they do which the average taxpayer could not do without.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jun 27, 09 8:22 PM