Public Criticizes Youth and Senior Funding Cuts

Posted on 13 November 2009

Supporters of youth and senior programs once again lobbied the Southampton Town Board during a budget hearing held on Tuesday to keep funding for 2010 intact. Executive Director of Alternatives Counseling Center Christina Epifania asked the board to be “courageous” regarding the youth and seniors in the community. Epifania said her staff has noticed local children are feeling the stress burdening their parents, and said the services provided by the town’s youth bureau are greatly needed at this time.
“If you take services away from the youth it is something you are going to pay for in the future,” remarked Epifania. During a later interview, Epifania said she worries young teenagers will turn to drugs and bad behavior if the number of available after school programs are limited.
Bonnie Cannon, the Executive Director of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center, added to Epifania’s sentiments. Cannon noted that cuts in youth funding will most likely affect those in the low to moderate income bracket. She added that the majority of clients served by the child care center are African-American or from the Latino community.
Members of the senior community commended the town on the services provided at the Bridgehampton and Hampton Bays senior centers, but said they believed proposed funding cuts would put the programming in jeopardy.
Supervisor Linda Kabot, however, explained that the 2010 preliminary budget doesn’t cut funding for the adult day care and transportation program. She said the decreases in funding stem from eliminating two administrative positions and reducing the budget of the nutrition program. The total funds cut for senior services amounts to $120,000.
Councilwoman Nancy Graboski presented a resolution to increase the Cablevision franchise fee from 4 percent to 5 percent. Currently, the town earns $1,000,000 in revenue from the franchise fee. By increasing the fee one percent, the town will gross approximately $1.25 million. A portion of the increased revenues could be spent on youth and senior programs and staff, noted Kabot. She added that the youth services program had far more draconian cuts than the senior program.
“These cuts don’t affect me personally, but I think I took this for granted. There are people around us who don’t have sports practice or a safe place to go after school. Even though these cuts may not affect your own children, they will affect the community,” noted a senior at Southampton High School, who is also a member of the Southampton Town Youth Board.
Although the board didn’t elaborate on any amendments to be made to the budget before it is filed on November 20, councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst announced she would gain close to $80,000 in savings from eliminating two positions in the supervisor’s office. Throne-Holst won the bid for supervisor on November 3 and will take office in January of 2010.
Though the budget hearing elicited a number of comments from the community, the audience shrunk by half when the board moved onto a hearing regarding piercing the five percent tax rate increase.
The preliminary budget calls for a full five percent tax rate increased, resulting in $33 additional taxes for a household valued at $500,000. The proposed tax rate for 2010 is tentatively set at $1.387 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
“The budget on the table is leaner than the budget we are operating from right now,” noted Kabot. However, this does not include the deficit in the capital fund. Kabot is proposing that the town surplus, or sell off, certain town owned properties that weren’t purchased with Community Preservation Funds to shore up a portion of the deficit in 2010 and then enact deficit reduction payments in the following budgets. If the town opts not to sell off surplus property, Kabot contended the five percent tax rate cap could be pierced to handle these deficits. The capital fund deficit is around $6 million, said Kabot. If the tax rate cap was pierced to handle these debts, it would roughly result in $60 in additional taxes for a home valued at $500,000. This figure excludes the $33 tax increase already slated for the operating budget.
The town will revisit the idea of piercing the five percent tax rate cap during a work session on Friday, November 13. On Friday, the town board will also hold a hearing on the preliminary budget. The budget must be adopted before Friday, November 20.

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