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Jan 6, 2010 12:36 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board closes out old capital projects

Jan 6, 2010 12:36 PM

During its last meeting of 2009, the Southampton Town Board on December 28 took a big step toward mitigating the fallout from the faulty financial processes that led to the town’s current financial crisis.

The board closed out about 265 capital projects that were either completed or, for all intents and purposes, abandoned, outgoing Supervisor Linda Kabot said this week. Closing out the projects, which the board did via more than 50 resolutions approved in the course of a six-hour meeting, will allow the town to more accurately assess the extent of the actual capital budget deficit, Town Comptroller Tamara Wright said.

“This gives the comptroller’s office the chance to measure the actual funding surplus and deficit for each of those projects,” she added.

From 2003 to 2007, previous Town Boards had authorized $13 million in spending for various capital projects, such as buildings and parks, but the earmarked money was never actually moved from either the general fund or various other town funds to the capital fund, where it belonged. In the end, only $6 million of that money was actually spent.

The cost of the projects closed out last week account for much of the $7 million that was unspent. Those projects were either never begun or never completed, according Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who took office on January 1.

“There were projects on the books that dated back to more than 10 years ago,” she said. “They lingered on without anyone keeping up with what the actual funds were doing on those projects.”

By closing out the 265 projects, the comptroller’s office can embark on another effort to make Southampton Town financially healthy again, Ms. Wright said. She and a team of comptroller’s office staffers, former Deputy Supervisor Bill Jones and project managers will be looking at each of the closed out projects and determining if they have surplus funding that can be moved to projects with a deficit.

Of the 265 projects cancelled, 95 had a deficit, representing a total figure of $8.3 million, according to a document from Ms. Wright. There are 170 projects with a surplus, a total of $14.5 million, the document states.

Eighty of the projects had funding sources that were affected by the failed accounting transactions that led to the financial crisis, Ms. Wright said.

Ms. Wright explained that while these numbers are important, the bond or authorizing resolutions accompanying each of the projects are even more crucial in settling the town’s financial issues.

She and her team will go through each of the resolutions for the projects with surplus funding, and see if that money can be moved to a project with a lack of funding.

“Sometimes we have resolutions that are written much more broadly,” Ms. Wright said, explaining that others are very restrictive. “The bonding resolution for the Big Duck, for example, is very specific to the Big Duck.”

The Big Duck currently has a deficit, she noted.

Ms. Wright said that when she first started working on the problem, she thought that she would be able to move money from a park with a surplus to a park with a deficit with ease, but that has not been the case. She added that a representative from the New York State Comptroller’s office is keeping a watchful eye over her team as they complete the process in order to make sure that funds are appropriately moved.

Ms. Wright hopes to have gone over all of the resolutions and moved the monies by the spring.

“We’re keeping our resources on this effort and expediting it,” Ms. Wright said.

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Let's see how long it takes the new administration get get it back to $13 million -- ATH could do that with the Town Police Department alone!
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Dec 29, 09 10:51 PM
I wish Anna well; Linda's understanding of the budget process will be missed.
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Dec 30, 09 10:46 AM
2 members liked this comment
REDO-Linda should never have lost the election. Where was this information when we needed it.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Dec 30, 09 11:55 AM
2 members liked this comment
Well that's a whole lot better than the 18 plus million figure we were throwing around during the election. Or was that the point?
Our newly elected supervisor has demonstrated her views on spending by out spending the last supervisor on her new deputy. That's 30k on the tote board for a position that was done pro se to the Town by an employee. basically making it a volunteer position.
I just thank our lucky stars we have a republican majority board with a real conservative in Jim Malone. ...more
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Dec 30, 09 5:08 PM
2 members liked this comment
hey people: stop with the excuses already. We're still MILLIONS of dollars in debt. Just because Linda and her cronies were able to shift money from here to there doesn't change the fact that there was gross mismanagement on her watch.

it's just not as bad as we thought - allegedly.

I'll bet anyone here a steak dinner that when the state does a real audit they will discover that the debt is very real and much closer to the # originally reported.
By littleplains (305), olde england on Dec 30, 09 6:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
$800,000 was allocated to put up street lights in Hampton Bays? And now is being spent elsewhere? I smell a HUGE lawsuit from the first tax paying family who loses a child due to a car hitting them while crossing the road in one of these dark spots. It happens in Hampton Bays quite often, that would have been money well spent-- rather than spending it to cover the former regime's @ss.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Dec 31, 09 5:57 AM
for those of you who read the article wrong, $800,000 was to build a building for the street light employees at Jackson ave. as they work out of a trailer at that location, but for some reason it never got built. Yes another management issue where someone started a project and never followed through. It is like the accounting issues, we as taxpayers pay for employees and management to run the business of town hall and when they fail, nothing happens to their jobs, matter of fact, most times the ...more
By trurepublician (53), hampton bays on Dec 31, 09 8:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
Bull "tru".

The "watch" is everyone's responsibility.

By fazool (22), Southampton on Jan 3, 10 12:45 AM
Why is there even a $6 million deficit. There should be a zero defecit if they truly knew how to budget.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jan 3, 10 11:04 AM
I'm sure that's coming, last week it was a $13 million deficit, this week $6 million. Next week the Town will be $3 million in the black and we everyone will be praising what a great job our Town officials have done.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Jan 9, 10 7:55 AM
Where was the genius business manager ( Richard Blowes )?
By LUVSH (28), Southampton on Jan 6, 10 8:01 PM