While the Town of East Hampton’s first hearing on a $72 million proposed spending plan for 2010 drew throngs of not-for-profits to the podium pleading for the board to reinstate cut funding, at the town’s second formal hearing, on Friday, November 13, residents demanded the budget be cut in the face of a second double digit tax increase.
The $72.1 million preliminary budget would result in an 11.2 percent tax-increase for residents who just last year faced a 23-percent tax increase. The majority of increases are to cover $15 million in state-backed deficit financing to cover a growing town deficit that could rise above $20 million by the close of the 2009 fiscal year.
With just three board members present – deputy supervisor Pete Hammerle, town board member Pat Mansir and an infirmed town board member Julia Prince – the town listened as about a dozen residents and organizations lodged their complaints with the proposed spending plan.
Martin Drew said he could recommend 60 cuts to the budget, saving the town $9 million. Detailing just a few of the cuts he recommended – the rest added to the record in a report – Drew suggested some $50,000 could be cut from the justice court line. He also recommended a $6,000 reduction in financing for the town’s youth court, $120,000 from the monies the town uses for its independent auditors, $75,000 in savings he could find in the supervisor’s office, $7,000 he would like to see cut in purchasing and $4,500 from the town assessors budget.
Noting he was not a “political professional” or “CPA,” Drew added that during difficult financial times he would think sub-contractors and outside council fees should be slashed, noting he also believed the police department’s budget seemed to be “a million too high.”
Independence Party Chair Elaine Jones, who noted her husband used to work for the town’s former insurance carrier Island Group, suggested the town consider returning to that company for health coverage and abandon their recent switch to Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“A lot of doctors now will not take Empire,” she said.
Bob Rizzardi spoke of what he felt was an ongoing, and expensive, practice in the town to hire friends and relatives and that the board should consider reducing the number of town employees to reduce the overall budget.
Rizzardi charged that a town parks and recreation employee, with two driving-while-intoxicated charges levied against them, wrecked a town vehicle on the job, but has kept his position due to family connections.
He added he would like to see cuts made in Marine Patrol, and questioned why moorings in Three Mile Harbor were not maintained by that branch of the town but instead outsourced.
“The McGintee era is over,” declared Darryl Glennon, wondering why the board can’t secure a five percent cut across the board.
“Last year, I saw [traffic control officers] driving around on a regular Wednesday,” said Glennon calling for the position to be part time in the off season.
“If the union is going to tie our hands, we will have to tie their hands,” he said.
When asked why Supervisor-elect Bill Wilkinson could not take office immediately along with his running mates Theresa Quigley and Dominick Stanzione, who will join Hammerle and Prince on the board come January, Mansir said she had offered her seat up early, but was declined. Prince added she would happily support a resolution to appoint Wilkinson to the supervisor’s post.
“But I don’t think he is interested in that,” she said.
Yank Beach Sticker Fee
In other town news, during a work session on Tuesday, November 17 the board agreed to remove the resident beach sticker fee from the budget. The sticker fee of $25, imposed last year, generated roughly $300,000 in revenue for the town. On Tuesday town comptroller Janet Verneuille said due to nearly $500,000 in savings from the town’s sanitation department’s debt service due to over-budgeting in years past, the board could afford to rescind the unpopular fee.