Before Cuts, Sag Harbor Village Budget Up Six Percent

Posted on 18 March 2010

Plugging the wish lists of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees and those of all the department heads into the next year’s draft budget would result in a six percent spending increase over last year’s approved budget, according to village treasurer Eileen Touhy.

But following a worksession on Friday, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said the board would pare down the tax increase before the budget is formally presented to taxpayers. Gilbride also said the village would look into ways to increase revenues, including through the possible expansion of Long Wharf.

The nearly $8 million draft spending plan includes $104,350 to fund the creation and staffing of a proposed village justice court. Other big-ticket items on the wish list include $250,000 for a new boat for the fire department and a $100,000 increase in the contingency account to a total of $120,000 that Gilbride said was being set aside to cover repairs to the various municipal buildings.

Sag Harbor fire chief Robert Mitchell has also applied for a grant from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the replacement of the department’s air packs, which would cost between $320,000 and $390,000. But the chief has yet to hear whether the grant will be awarded to Sag Harbor; if the village budgets for the expenditure, it will no longer be in contention for the grant.

Touhy explained that both the boat and the packs, if budgeted, would come out of the village’s capital reserve fund, which the budget pays down annually.

The chief said the department currently has four different kinds of packs which could present a safety hazard should a volunteer grab the wrong canister. Only 12 of the packs, he said, are from 2007, and neighboring fire districts are already using an even higher standard of air pack.

“I’ve got some bottles from the 1970s still,” he said.

While the state has been handing out grants to other fire departments, a grant award could come as late as October. Board members Tiffany Scarlato and Robby Stein said the trustees should reach out to New York State Senator Charles Schumer to see whether Sag Harbor is a likely candidate, or whether trustees should consider budgeting the expense.

Expansion of Long Wharf?

Looking at a $50,000 shortfall in revenues from the village’s harbors and docks, Gilbride said the board had looked at possibly raising the cost for resident slips in the village, but discovered Sag Harbor’s rates were on par with what other municipalities charge.

However, after consulting with former mayor and village trustee John Ward, Gilbride said he would like to consider expanding dockage at Long Wharf to boost revenues. After consulting with village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr., Gilbride said he believed the village could obtain state permits for the expansion, which would add two fingers to Long Wharf. The village needed to plan, and price, the project, he added before moving forward.

Gilbride also mentioned he would consider renting the west side of Long Wharf for a few more weekends than the board has already approved. At the request of the Harbor Committee, they allowed one yacht to lease the space for holiday weekends, leaving the west side open to the public the remainder of the season. Harbor Master Bob Bori said the village could see an additional $20,000 in revenue if they allowed yachts to lease additional weekends on the west side.

The board empowered Bori to advertise for the rental of the west side of Long Wharf as well as for the village’s transient docks, which now accept advance booking.

“A lot of people don’t know we are taking reservations for transient slips, which we have never done before,” he said. “This way they know when they are coming from Connecticut that they have a slip waiting for them in Sag Harbor.”

MTA Payroll Tax

Sag Harbor Village is also anticipating spending just over $10,000 to cover its share of the Metropolitan Transit Authority payroll tax, although Touhy noted there is state legislation pending that would reduce the cost of the tax on Long Island and other counties outside the five boroughs of New York City. That legislation would reduce the amount of tax on businesses and municipalities in outer counties from $0.34 to $0.17 per $100 of payroll while increasing the tax in the boroughs to $.054 per $100 of payroll.

In addition, New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle and state assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. have joined assemblyman Marc Alessi of Wading River in co-sponsoring legislation that may create the Peconic Bay Regional Transit Authority, which would replace the MTA on the East End, on November’s ballot.

Law enforcement is looking at a two-percent increase as currently budgeted, which includes the addition of a 13th police officer. Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Thomas Fabiano said most of the other increases in his department were contractual in nature. Three years ago, New York State issued a report on the Sag Harbor Village Police Department that said the department should increase its police force by two officers. The addition of this officer will still leave the department one shy of that recommendation.

The police department, fire department and volunteer ambulance department have all seen the cost of radio dispatch raised this year, although volunteer ambulance president Ed Downes noted his department has seen an estimated $14,147 increase for their dispatch alone to a total of $95,353.

All three departments contract with the Village of East Hampton for the service, as does the Bridgehampton Fire Department. The village’s police dispatch is estimated to rise from $41,071 to $45,960 and the fire department’s from $39,762 to $41,790.

“How do they come up with these figures,” asked Trustee Scarlato.

While Downes said the figure is supposed to be based on calls, he believes his department actually saw a decrease in the number of calls it received this year.

Village Clerk Sandra Schroeder said she would reach out to East Hampton Village’s administrator Larry Cantwell about the figures and ask about the formula they use to calculate the cost.

The next Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting on the draft budget will be held on Friday, March 26 at 4 p.m.

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