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Sep 30, 2009 12:55 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town officials ready proposed budget for next year

Sep 30, 2009 12:55 PM

Town officials were working around the clock this week to meet a Wednesday deadline for assembling a 2010 budget that will raise taxes while cutting spending on staff, materials and consultants in hopes of covering multimillion-dollar deficits.

Supervisor Linda Kabot and aides were holed up in Town Hall over the weekend searching for at least $4.5 million in cuts. The supervisor was due to submit a tentative budget to the town clerk sometime on Wednesday—the deadline is 11:59 p.m.—that will likely include a tax increase and layoffs. The 2009 budget totalled $82.5 million.

Ms. Kabot said that next year’s budget will be the toughest since 1992, when town revenues were severely cramped by a nationwide economic recession.

The tentative budget will call for a tax hike of at least 5 percent—the maximum allowed under the town’s tax cap law—which would raise the tax rate by 6 cents, from $1.32 to $1.38 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That will mark the second year in a row that the town has raised taxes to the cap limit. With the increase, owners of property assessed at $500,000 would see their annual town tax bill increase by $30, up from $660 to $690.

“There will be tax rate increases,” Ms. Kabot said. “It will be within the cap.”

Still, Ms. Kabot said she will continue to call for an amendment to the town’s tax cap law to pay off old debt in the capital budget, which is estimated to be $10 million in the hole. If the Town Board approves altering the tax cap law, taxpayers would see a separate line on their property tax bills for paying down the capital fund debt.

“I’m still asking for it because we have debts to pay back,” Ms. Kabot said.

In addition to payroll cuts, youth programs and community grants will also be axed to save money.

“There are going to be cutbacks in programs, there are going to be cutbacks to how much we give in grants,” the supervisor said. “These are tough times, and difficult decisions have to be made.”

Some town services including the animal shelter may also be privatized. “It is likely that the town will move forward with privatization of the animal shelter,” Ms. Kabot said. “What’s mandated you have to have ... but you don’t have to have an animal shelter.”

The Town Board is expected to review the tentative budget at a special meeting on Friday, October 2. It must consider any budget amendment resolutions and adopt the 2010 budget and capital plan by November 20.

A major bone of contention in next year’s budget has been spending on employees, which will decrease next year, Ms. Kabot said.

Department heads have requested $53.4 million in employee payroll spending for next year, compared to $57.5 million for this year, Ms. Kabot said. Payroll spending includes health insurance, dental, longevity pay, workers compensation, among other things. If Ms. Kabot upholds the payroll requests, total payroll spending would be slightly below 2008 levels of $53.8 million.

As of Tuesday, Ms. Kabot confirmed that layoffs are likely, but she declined to discuss the extent of them.

This year there was funding for 563 full-time employees, compared to 559 full-time employees in 2008. In addition, at least 31 full-time vacancies created this year due to a hiring freeze will probably go unfilled next year.

To help avoid layoffs, Ms. Kabot is pursuing a plan to offer early retirement incentives to at least 40 town employees. The incentives would offer employees, who are eligible for retirement, payments of $500 for each year they were employed by Southampton Town, Ms. Kabot said.

“This is not a list from Santa Claus,” Ms. Kabot said, referring to a list of employees eligible for the early retirement incentives.

To help reduce spending, Ms. Kabot said salaries will be frozen for elected officials and department heads. The salary freeze may even extend to rank-and-file employees, Ms. Kabot said. Town spending on health insurance premiums is expected to increase by at least 6 percent next year. Under this year’s budget, Civil Service Employee Association workers received a 2-percent pay raise after the union initially requested a 2.5-percent increase. The union represents about 300 full-time employees.

“That’s really like your salary went up,” Ms. Kabot said. “The 6-percent increase in health insurance premiums, I’m going to argue, is sufficient compromise.”

Ms. Kabot met with CSEA leaders on Thursday, September 24, to discuss spending options that will affect employees. CSEA President Pete Collins did not immediately return a call for comment, and Director of Human Resources and Personnel Dawn Tuttle deferred all questions to the supervisor.

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There's a lot of misinformation going around about the Town's pinched finances. So far this week , the Chief Distortionist is Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who engaged in some stunningly blatant deception on Monday at a Meet the Candidates Night held by the Flanders, Riverside & Northampton Community Association.

First, claiming he was actually doing something about the money mess, Nuzzi tried to cast his two proposals to alter the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board as cost-cutting ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Sep 30, 09 2:56 PM
2 members liked this comment
POPE---COUNCIL PERSON!!!!! not councilwoman.
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Oct 1, 09 6:42 AM
And again...........Kenny, Zenk and Susskind never existed? I liked how Sally Pope tried to blame the town for the lack of investment in LI40.......does she not know that there is no money to be borrowed for the private sector to build? Or will she start another government "program" to run small business? Then of course there is the Comptroller who should have been fired who got a $100,000 a year Civil Service protected job that Pope voted for and Nuzzi voted against. All this and layoffs coming ...more
By Terry (380), Southampton on Sep 30, 09 9:05 PM
As noted elsewhere, Kenny, Zenk & Susskind may share some blame in all this, but they're gone, they're not running for office this November. The only surviving guilty party running for re-election is Chris Nuzzi, who had four long years on the Town Board to ask a question or raise an objection or look critically at a balance sheet, but never did. If we give Nuzzi another term, we can only expect "business as usual", the sloppy-chummy Republican way that got us into this terrific financial hole ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 1, 09 10:39 AM
Funny how you don't mention Heaney or Kabot, both of whom are complicit in the mismanagement that resulted in the town's budget crisis. Kenny, Zenk and Suskind were different problems.

Kenny had the idiotic idea of a big ditch bypass and his coastal erosion hazard law was responsible for the Dunehampton legal mess (your tax dollars at work) and the incorporation of Sagaponack (taking the highest valued properties out of the town tax base). Zenk was certifiably crazy. Suskind was only there ...more
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 3, 09 12:20 PM
I think the increase will be from $6600 to $6900-check the math
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Sep 30, 09 9:55 PM
It's amazing how people in this upcoming election still revert back to Dem or Rep. ! get with the rest of the country! Sally has only just said Nope to Dope and yet has mandated on her first few months in office..."council PERSON"...petty and stupid!
How about Anna taking credit for looking at the town books...she could hardly get out a complete sentence if it wasn't for Linda EXPLAINING how the other government agencies require certain things from individual towns and time tables etc.!!!
Nuzzi ...more
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Oct 1, 09 6:40 AM
INS of Hampton Bays, please note that it was Sally Pope, and Sally Pope alone, who voted against a premature lifting of the CR 39 building moratorium. The community there shares your concern, and it was only Ms. Pope who listened.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 1, 09 10:17 AM
The only one that has met with true concerns of the local community is Grabowski and she has a list of accomplishments that everyone in the community supports and is happy with!

Name one.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Oct 1, 09 7:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
Reducing the size of the Planning Board and ZBA would have saved the Town $600,000 in salaries and benefits over a seven year period (their current term). That is a few part time postiions or a couple of full time positions that could be funded instead laying people off and paying for these bloated boards. The Town Board has 5 members, why can't these boards function that way? Just look at the ridiculous taxes being imposed on us by the state--can you say the Dems are not a party of higher taxes?
By hb guy (17), Hampton Bays on Oct 1, 09 9:06 AM
I did not vote for Kabot last time, but I will this time. She has proven her self as tough, for tough times. She knows raising taxes is political death, but is tough enough to face it and get it done. I'm no party hack, but cmon people - Anna and Sally have absolutely NO qualifications for the jobs. And they have shown little potential to grow into them based on their weak grasp of issues and their inability to truly relate to real locals.
By foxnfowl (17), Southampton on Oct 1, 09 10:31 AM
3 members liked this comment
Kabot has proven herself unable to take responsibility for her own actions, whether it be complicity in creating the town's financial crisis or driving under the influence. She hasn't stepped up to honestly address either issue, and that is more than enough reason to vote her out.

Sadly, I thought that your level of xenophobia belonged to another time and place.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 3, 09 12:25 PM
I hope that when the Press starts its assessment of the candidates running for office this year - all of them, not just the town board, it does more than simply interview each person running for office. I hope it will also take the time to have a reporter look into how much time that person actually puts into their job at Town Hall. Some people come across well in interviews, but show up to do little real work, and that's a problem. I'm tired of the taxpayer paying for people skating by until they ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Oct 2, 09 12:37 PM