Before Cuts, Sag Harbor Village’s Tentative Budget Pierces Tax Cap

Posted on 23 February 2012

Unveiling what Mayor Brian Gilbride called “the worse case scenario,” the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees began work-shopping its 2012-2013 tentative budget last Friday.

At the outset, taking into account contractual increases and the wish lists of department heads, spending in the tentative budget increases over the current fiscal year by $336,051.74 or 4.287 percent. If adopted, the budget would require the village board pass a resolution allowing it to pierce a state-mandated two-percent tax cap.

However, Mayor Gilbride repeatedly said he has no intentions of passing that resolution and that department heads and trustees will be brandishing red pens over the course of the next several weeks in an attempt to pare down the budget.

According to Sag Harbor Village Treasurer Eileen Tuohy, the tentative budget shows expenditures reaching $8,174,075, with the amount needed to raise through the tax levy, which is capped at two percent, reaching $5,550,238.64, a four percent increase over the 2011-2012 adopted budget.

According to a budget work sheet drawn up by Tuohy, the largest increases in spending are proposed for the Sag Harbor Village Justice Court, which is proposed to need $146,110 in 2012-2013 as opposed to $94,000 in 2011-2012, a 55-percent increase. However, revenues in fees collected by the court are also projected to jump by $135,000, according to a worksheet Tuohy provided board members.

The Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department has the second largest increase in spending proposed, at $435,375, an 8.86 percent increase over last year. That increase is entirely devoted to paying the village back for a boat it purchased from the Town of East Hampton earlier this year, according to Chief Pete Garypie.

“The only thing we raised was the reserves,” said Chief Garypie, adding the department only raised that to return the $40,000 the Village of Sag Harbor agreed to take out of its reserves so the department could purchase the 26-foot boat from the town for the fire department’s dive team last month.

The village’s volunteer ambulance corps has also increased spending by close to $9,000 in its tentative budget plan, but as President Ed Downes noted, that was only to cover increases in insurances costs.

“I can’t control that,” said Downes.

The Sag Harbor Village Police Department has also proposed an increase of $75,477, or 3.89 percent over the 2011-2012 spending plan, although most of that is do to proposed salary increases. The village and the police department’s employees union have reached an impasse in contract negotiations, said Mayor Gilbride.

The police department also has made some large cuts in its budget, paring down the monies it has budgeted for traffic control officers by close to $12,500, and dropping the amount of money it budgets for new vehicles by $15,000.

The building department has also requested increases in spending nearing 8.3 percent, or $16,838, mostly covered in increases to salaries for part time staff under code enforcement and personnel for the building department.

While the Harbors and Docks department, led by Harbor Master Bob Bori, have presented a plan for 2012-2013 that reduced spending by 0.62 percent, on Friday Bori did say that eventually the village would need to replace its B dock, which will cost around $160,000 to $200,000, although that replacement is not critical for this year.

“I can see from everything I am looking at that everyone was trying to hold the line,” said Mayor Gilbride. “You can see where we are with the two percent cap. My goal is to have zero percent increases and not pass a resolution that would protect us if we pierce the cap.”

To adhere to the cap, Tuohy said the village can only raise spending by $160,000, meaning the village board will have to cut proposed spending by more than half just to meet the cap’s requirements.

“You can see by these numbers that we have to do something to roll things back,” said Mayor Gilbride. “Now that we have the numbers hard and fast we have to cut things back to where we want them.”

Three large projects — the remediation of Havens Beach, a bulkhead on West Water Street and upgrades to the Municipal Building — will not be affected by this budget, said Mayor Gilbride on Tuesday.

With $2.1 to $2.2 million in the village’s reserve account, Mayor Gilbride said he would rather look to fund those initiatives through reserves rather than budgeting for them now or borrowing money to cover their costs.

Also not included in the tentative budget is the cost of caring for Long Wharf. For well over a year now, the village has been in discussions with Suffolk County on whether or not it will be required to take the wharf off the county’s hands. The village would then become responsible for not only the daily maintenance of Long Wharf, but also for long-term projects that cost Suffolk County around $100,000 annually.

“I am a man of my word,” said Mayor Gilbride on Tuesday. “By June I want to know whether it’s ours or if they are going to give us a new lease. Otherwise, it’s all theirs.”

The next budget workshop is slated for Friday, March 2 at 4 p.m.

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