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Nov 17, 2010 11:34 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board's Majority Remains Mum On Budget Changes

Nov 17, 2010 11:34 AM

As they approach the finish line in adopting a 2011 budget—with a deadline set for this Friday, November 19—members of the Southampton Town Board’s Republican-Conservative majority are keeping their cards close to the vest, holding off on introducing anticipated last-minute changes to Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s $82.1 million preliminary spending plan.

If approved on Friday, Ms. Throne-Holst’s proposed budget would include a 2.4-percent increase in taxes—a fiscal move that Ms. Throne-Holst has stressed is designed to amass $1.85 million to pay off the town’s deficits in its beaches and waste management funds. Her plan would increase overall spending by about $2.3 million over the amended 2010 budget.

Republican Town Board members Nancy Graboski and Chris Nuzzi, and Conservative Town Councilman Jim Malone did not return numerous calls seeking comment this week on any potential amendments. Ryan Horn, a town spokesman, confirmed that they were working on amendments this week, but said they opted to decline sharing them with the public, noting that the changes are evolving “minute by minute.”

“What they told me is they don’t have anything right now to chat about, with what the proposed amendments are going to be,” he said.

Ms. Throne-Holst said she has heard from at least one Town Board member, Democrat Bridget Fleming, that Mr. Nuzzi, Mr. Malone and Ms. Graboski may amend the budget to restore the General Services Department, also known as the Business Management Department. The supervisor wants to dismantle that department as part of her budget.

But when reached on Tuesday, Ms. Fleming said that she never told Ms. Throne-Holst such a thing. “Anna must have made a mistake,” she said.

The department in question is headed up by Town Management Services Administrator Richard Blowes, who is slated to retire at the end of the year under a New York State early retirement incentive. He will continue to serve as the executive director of the Southampton Housing Authority. Mr. Blowes, whose position was eliminated from the supervisor’s preliminary budget, said he signed a contract with the organization on Monday.

“That was my big reorganization,” Ms. Throne-Holst said of the General Services Department. She added that not one Town Board member has contacted her about a potential amendment to the department.

When approached at Town Hall on Tuesday, Ms. Graboski walked away from a reporter, declining to comment on any potential budget amendments before stating that she was heading into a meeting. She declined to discuss any potential changes to the General Services Department, stating: “We’re looking at a bunch of things at this point in time.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said she hoped her colleagues wouldn’t wait until the last minute to introduce changes. During Friday’s work session, the supervisor tried to set a rough deadline for amendments, explaining that the town comptroller’s office needs time to determine the financial impact on the spending plan.

The supervisor tried to get her fellow board members to informally agree to setting an earlier deadline, but Mr. Nuzzi countered that while sooner might be better, Town Board members technically have until Thursday to submit their resolutions to the town clerk’s office for Friday’s meeting.

The strained atmosphere at Town Hall was on display on Tuesday afternoon, just days before the budget was to be adopted. There was a clear lack of communication between the supervisor’s and Town Board’s offices, which are just a short walk from one another on the second floor. Those in Ms. Throne-Holst’s office said they have no idea what the board’s majority was drafting, and Town Comptroller Tamara Wright said she also has not been notified of any pending changes, save for minor budget line adjustments. She said that, as of Tuesday afternoon, she has helped draft between 25 and 30 resolutions related to adjustments suggested following discussions with department heads and based on comments from the public. Ms. Wright said she has not been consulted on any large changes, such as department restructuring or suggested layoffs.

But the comptroller said that based on comments during last Friday’s work session, particularly ones made by Mr. Malone, the board’s majority apparently plans to unveil significant amendments on Friday, including those that would reduce or eliminate any increase in town taxes.

“Oh, I think there are going to be some major adjustments, yes,” Ms. Wright said. “I sense that they really want to bring tax relief, and the only way to bring tax relief is to reduce spending.

“To keep the levy flat, they would have to find over $750,000 of spending cuts, or find new revenue sources,” she continued. “And then if they were going to reduce taxes, they would have to go even deeper.”

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For the sake of efficiency, rationality and frugality Ms. Throne-Holst introduced a "sushine" proposition that will require the STPD to justify its operations, staffing and payroll costs.

[Oh, wait. That was a dream.]
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 18, 10 10:08 AM

Do you voice this opinion to ATH in letters? Do you go to Town Board Meetings and state your case? Have you written other elected officials in the Town, County and State to express your concern over the "overpaid" STPD? I'm not suggesting you aren't, I'm asking a legitimate question.

Your rhetoric is getting unbelievably tiring and I would imagine if you have such a good case, and you are voicing your opinion through every possibly channel - that something would change. ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 18, 10 1:09 PM
to Nature:

I think that I have chosen a fairly distinctive avatar. If so, it should be easy as pie for you and others who share your opinion simply to skip anything that I write when they see the avatar in front of it.

As for your questions, I have taken no steps that might reveal my true identity to the STPD. Reiterating the deplorable behavior and eye-popping pay of the STPD in these comments is one way of alerting Southampton residents to their fleecing by the STPD and to ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 18, 10 3:27 PM
Sorry to report, Vince, that you are not the sleuth that you make yourself out to be. All those letters after your name doesn't equate to intelligence.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Nov 18, 10 3:38 PM
HH, if Terry knows who you are, you're doing an awful job of remaining annonymous to those evil police who are out to get the residents of the town, being as Terry is retired STPD
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 18, 10 3:51 PM
I thought Terry was retired from the Suffolk County Sheriff's Dept and also involved with the conservative party.
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Nov 18, 10 10:57 PM
STPD. Former Convservation Board Member and his family works in other capacities for the Town.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 19, 10 9:12 AM
All highhat has accomplished by making police pay public is to show the public that we are being fairly paid for the job and service we provide. Not one officer has had to take a cut in pay and not one job has been eliminated. Bottom line is that the public appreciates the job the police do and have no problem paying fair wages.
Nov 18, 10 4:59 PM appended by EastEnd68
disregard the "we'
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 18, 10 4:59 PM
please disregard last comment-did not been to imply that I am with the SHTP-just a supporter of them. The "we" should not be in the comment
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 18, 10 5:59 PM
Wink wink, we understand..Its all good
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Nov 19, 10 12:46 AM
Wink wink, we understand..Its all good
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Nov 19, 10 12:46 AM
Respectfully, if YOU know the salaries of the STPD, please post them. All that the rest of us know is their ante-overtime salaries which are, compared to their ACTUAL salaries, as a Chihuahua to a Labrador.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 18, 10 6:40 PM
go to seethroughny.org
By sirpoochala (78), Hampton Bays on Dec 2, 10 6:37 PM
I also follow HH's comments. I find them educational about something I know nothing about. I know he has complained about officers that should be retired that are still on the payroll at a high cost to the taxpayers and the power of the police union over the town government. I don't recall his criticizing the officers. In general his comments seem to be directed at management. At least that's my impression.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Nov 19, 10 12:52 AM
Now back to this budget...I'm shocked that the town is trying to tax again. Maybe I should not be. They are looking to cut their operating expenses and that is good, but taxing at these difficult times is unconscionable. The economy is a mire even in Hamptons land. Everyone's properties are well worth bellow what they were we know intuitively. The tax they are levying are not based on the actual values of our properties.

In light of the fact that to cover their deficits and restructure ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Nov 19, 10 1:57 AM
"taxing at these difficult times is unconscionable"

Taxes are proposed to increase by 2.4%. That amounts to what, $50/house on average? I don't understand why the general public gets so upset when the local town raises taxes for services it provides that amount to a few hundred dollars a year, when every year residents vote in droves to approve increased spending by the schools. That is where your taxes are going - and EVERY year people vote for them. I'm not saying I enjoy paying taxes ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 19, 10 9:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
Yes,raising taxes during these difficult times based on the inflated prices of the last assessment is unconscionable. I hear and agree with what you say about school taxes. Unfortunately, as you say, the residents keep voting for the budgets. You and I are in the minority. I would advocate a school tax system whereby on a means basis parents of children in school would pay tuition. Those that use the schools should be more financially responsible for financing and oversight of the system. People ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Nov 19, 10 10:32 AM
Keep in mind that the better the school district - the more value a property has. So, paying school taxes does benefit those who do not have children within the school district. What is interesting is when you start to look at other school districts like Sag Harbor, Sagaponack, East Hampton etc. that take in students from other districts through open enrollment. There is likely a way to "game" the system where the tax burdern could be reduced across the board but you must be careful doing this. ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 19, 10 12:07 PM
I agree having a good school district adds value to the property. I was not looking so much at having open enrollment from other districts but within the SH district having parents of students have a greater stake and burden in the system that they actually are paying a bit more "out of pocket".

As part of a broader argument when people point to various services, like leaf pick up, as a luxury. Well one person's luxury is another's necessity. I use less of one and desire more of the ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Nov 19, 10 3:53 PM
God forbid the Republican-Conservative majority of Nuzzi, Graboski and Malone should share their proposed budget amendments with the public. The people might learn something about their plans to trash ATH's budget.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Nov 21, 10 11:35 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Wired (1), Brookhaven on Nov 27, 10 9:11 AM