On Monday, Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot opened the town council meeting by welcoming new councilwoman Sally Pope to the board. Because it was an organizational meeting, the board members went over some preliminary planning for 2009 and Kabot announced that with the addition of Pope, this is the first time in history, that Southampton Town has had four women on the board.
Prior to the meeting, Kabot took to the podium to present her state of the town address.
“It is my intention to continue to be a positive driving force, while encouraging others to also exhibit leadership on the issues and civility in local government,” Kabot said.
In her address, the supervisor also talked about the town’s plans to eliminate the $7.5 million deficit in the police, highway and waste management funds.
“Over the course of 2008, working with the town board, we have made improvements to the town’s financial condition but much more work must be done,” she continued.
The supervisor also announced that the town had seen a reduction in the police fund deficit at the end of 2008, but, she added, “the general fund balance is precariously low, due to I.O.U.’s from other funds and certain expenses authorized by the town board during 2008.”
“We are navigating in treacherous seas and it is the supervisor’s job to steer the ship in the right direction as the town’s chief financial officer,” said Kabot who added that in May, she will present a plan that will more specifically address issues related to the financial situation of the town.
Kabot also recounted what had been done in 2008 to help alleviate the deficit and said that 25 positions, most of which have been vacated in recent month by employees who have left town hall, were abolished. She also added that a hiring freeze has been enacted.
Kabot further added that the town’s “cookie jar” has very little cash on hand to soften impacts to taxpayers for the year 2010.
“Which means that the town board has to make difficult decisions and important changes going forward,” said Kabot who noted that many of these changes are likely to begin prior to the official release of the 2010 budget on September 30.
Kabot also asked each board member to be a department head on a “search and find” mission for savings and “find ways to do more with less.” Last year, the town used $4.5 million in “rainy day” funds to provide fiscal stability for taxpayers. Kabot said on Monday, that the board will need to be innovative, because, “they do not have that level of a rescue plan.”
“However, there is hope,” the supervisor said, “It is not all gloom and doom. With a new president to be inaugurated shortly, there is the promise of change. We express our support for President Barack Obama’s leadership of our great country during this critical time.”
She added that since the federal government was exploring economic stimulus strategies, so, too, will Southampton Town.
Pope Ready for Business
Also on Monday newcomer councilwoman Sally Pope brought up a piece of legislation that she feels is very important — particularly now that there are four women on the five seat town board. The legislation that she pioneered deals with the term “town councilman” as opposed to town councilperson or town council member.
“It was with great surprise to learn that I was campaigning for the seat of town councilman,” Pope said.
The legislation introduced by Pope at Monday’s meeting stated that the town board would like to petition the State of New York to allow for modifications to the current election law, which uses the term “town councilman.”
Pope announced, after the town board unanimously adopted the plan, that this piece of legislation will be sent to other legislators within the state.
“The town legal department will research the proposal we will make to the state, and the request will be sent to a number of officials with the state and the county to effect the change,” Pope said.