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Nov 18, 2009 1:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board members mum on budget amendments

Nov 18, 2009 1:37 PM

Within days of the Southampton Town Board’s scheduled adoption of a 2010 budget, Supervisor-elect Anna Throne-Holst on Tuesday proposed a number of sweeping amendments to the plan put forth by outgoing Supervisor Linda Kabot, restoring some jobs slated to be cut, cutting others, and increasing overall spending and revenue estimates.

The amendments would raise town spending to $79.3 million next year, $1.33 million more than the $78 million budget proposed by Ms. Kabot. They would also restore many cuts to staffing and materials included in the Kabot plan. The extra spending, according to the proposed amendments, would be offset by estimated revenue increases and savings from a planned restructuring of the town’s administration.

An increase in Cablevision franchise fees and building permit fees would bring in about $400,000—$250,000 of that in franchise fees that would be used to restore cuts in staff and services proposed to be made to human services and the Youth Bureau next year. Ms. Throne-Holst is also predicting $250,000 more in mortgage tax revenue than Ms. Kabot’s budget counts on.

And the supervisor-elect’s plan anticipates $600,000 in savings through the elimination of four department head positions after a restructuring—although Ms. Throne-Holst has not said which positions are being considered for elimination.

The Town Board is due to approve a budget at its meeting on Friday, November 20.

Council members this week remained mum on the proposed amendments, which were discussed in public for the first time during a special meeting on Tuesday.

Though briefed about the amendments by Ms. Throne-Holst earlier in the week, Councilwoman Sally Pope, who lost her bid for reelection earlier this month, refused to discuss the proposals when asked about them on Tuesday. “I’m not going to talk about it,” Ms. Pope said.

Councilman Christopher Nuzzi, who succeeded in being reelected on November 3, and Councilwoman Nancy Graboski did not return calls for comment.

Ms. Kabot said she and Ms. Graboski were not briefed on the proposed amendments before Tuesday’s meeting, though Ms. Throne-Holst began lobbying other Town Board members on the amendments over a week ago.

“It bothers me that she did not talk to Nancy Graboski,” Ms. Kabot said. “To go around a fellow board member who is going to vote this year and the next two years is not a good policy ... There should have been more of an inclusionary process.”

The proposed amendments, if adopted, would constitute a departure from the staffing changes proposed in the Kabot plan. Among them is the retention of 15 of the 44 employees who faced layoffs next year, at a cost of $600,000 and the allocation of $200,000 for utilities at the town animal shelter, which is expected to be taken over by a private foundation next year. Another nine of the employees facing layoffs were employed at the animal shelter and will have a chance to be hired by the private company that takes over its operation in January.

Ms. Kabot has said that her budget proposal, which does not include any direct appropriations for the shelter, sets aside $200,000 that she expects to be spent on the shelter.

Zoning and Planning Board members would also see their health benefits restored, at a cost of $60,000. Also proposed is a new $60,000 position for an engineer to assist incoming Highway Superintendent-elect Alex Gregor, who would have the power to appoint whomever he wants to fill that position.

The Land Management Department would see the largest restoration of funding of any other department next year under the new proposals. Though faced with $1.57 million in cuts next year, $461,000 in spending would be restored to avoid seven layoffs at the department.

“Across the departments, there are a number of restorations of positions,” Town Comptroller Tamara Wright said. “The net impact of all this would be a net increase of $1,338,000.”

The amendments also propose new cuts and additional fees to raise $650,000 in revenue and offset the new expenses.

The cuts eliminate positions in the supervisor’s office and town attorney’s office. About $76,000 in savings were found in the supervisor’s office, in part by eliminating a citizen’s advocate position, and $96,000 was freed up by abolishing a town attorney position and reducing funding for a deputy town attorney position by six months.

At the Town Board’s meeting on Tuesday, council members battled over the town’s early retirement incentive package proposed by Ms. Kabot and adopted by the Town Board last month.

Ms. Throne-Holst said she hopes to “sweeten” the early retirement incentive package offered to 56 senior workers. The current package proposed grants $500 for each year served with the town. To encourage more workers to accept the package, $1,000 would be offered for each year served with the town under Ms. Throne-Holst’s plans.

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Regarding the early retirement incentive, Anna Throne-Holst seems to be applying market economics to the matter, i.e., if only 9 of 56 senior employees have taken the package (out of a hoped-for 20), then the only way to increase the acceptance rate is to up the ante, as she proposes, from $500 a year to $1000 a year. Makes sense to me, considering the tremendous savings to be gained from 20 early retirements all at once.

Regarding the deficit bond proposal, it's a choice between borrowing ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Nov 18, 09 1:59 PM
Jesus wept! Not a peep about the millions of dollars annually budgeted for police department patronage. Just retiring the six police officers that the Chief of Police selected for retirement in 2008 would save over $1M.

One hopes that the candidate elected to the newly-opened Town Council seat is at least a Vertebrate. Otherwise, we should replace all the Council chairs with large bowls.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 18, 09 4:17 PM
At first glance another bond will impact the Town's rating, which has somehow managed to remain in tact despite the capital budget woes. How many hours do the zoning/planning board folks work?
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Nov 20, 09 2:29 PM
The incredible gall of Linda Kabot never ceases to amaze me. First of all, she's a lame duck. This is really none of her damn business and is obviously an ego thing now. Why not graciously step aside and let the people responsible for dealing with her mess address it as is traditionally done. They are the ones that the people elected after all! Linda's approach was squarely rejected, yet she continues to press it. Sound a little undemocratic??

What's worse is that she has the temerity ...more
By tosh (2), Southampton on Nov 20, 09 8:16 PM