The tentative budget submitted to the East Hampton Town Clerk by Supervisor Bill Wilkinson on Friday raises spending by 2.5 percent — but it also cuts taxes.
The $65.6 million budget shows a 0.2-percent tax cut for residents of the town who live outside the villages of East Hampton and Sag Harbor and a 9.4-percent reduction in taxes for town residents who reside within those villages.
“With the 2012 tentative budget, like the 2011 adopted budget, we continue our sensitivity to the tax burden on town residents and limit spending to the greatest extent possible,” wrote Supervisor Wilkinson is his budget message. “Our 2012 tentative budget decreases tax rates for those living inside and outside our incorporated villages. Spending increases slightly, due primarily to employee benefit cost escalation and in part to money needed to eliminate the $27.3 million deficit created by the previous administration.”
In his budget message, Supervisor Wilkinson goes on to note that in the last 20 months, town government has been “restructured,” merging the Harbors and Docks Department into the Police Department. There has also been a “streamlining” of Human Services, brining ordinance enforcement, the building inspector, fire marshal and animal control under one Public Safety department, and the establishment of a Finance Office representing finance, information technology, human resources, the tax receiver and purchasing.
These changes, he wrote, have helped reduce spending and maximize how town personnel are used.
Supervisor Wilkinson said discontinuation of the leaf pick-up program coupled with the closing of the town’s Recycling Center on Wednesdays has resulted in $700,000 in annual savings.
The tentative budget also maintains funding levels from 2011 for the East Hampton Daycare and Learning Center, the Family Service League, the East Hampton Food Pantry, Phoenix House, the Montauk Youth Association, the Springs Youth Association, Project MOST, RSVP for Seniors and the Pediatric Dental Fund.
The tentative budget also includes the sale of East Hampton Town’s portion of The Poxabogue Golf Center to Southampton Town. A resolution authorizing that sale, for $2.2 million will be offered at Thursday night’s town board meeting.
On Tuesday, during a town board work session, Supervisor Wilkinson said that in addition he expects the town will receive about $200,000 in owed revenues from the golf center.
Supervisor Wilkinson added that he was told East Hampton residents would not be charged differently from Southampton Town residents for the use of the golf center as a result of the sale. Deputy Supervisor Theresa Quigley explained that the town had done what it hoped to accomplish – prevent the close to 40-acre course from being privately developed. The Town of Southampton originally purchased the property with Community Preservation Funds (CPF), which will protect the land from future development, she said.
In 2004, East Hampton Town purchased half of the golf course for $3.25 million alongside Southampton Town in an effort to preserve the recreational use of the land. It could not use CPF monies for the purchase, explained Supervisor Wilkinson on Tuesday, because the property lay outside the town.
On Tuesday, Supervisor Wilkinson did not say how much debt the town still owed on that purchase, but estimated with the sale to Southampton, East Hampton Town should about break even.
The East Hampton Town Board will meet tonight, October 6, at 7 p.m. The town board must approve a final budget and send it to the state by November 20.
“I am proud of this 2012 tentative budget because it builds on and continues the management and financial disciplines introduced in the 2011 adopted budget and places the town in a stronger position as we move forward,” said Wilkinson in his budget message. “Over the next several months I will be introducing, and the town board will be reviewing, a three-year capital improvement plan and budget that will address plant, equipment and the future infrastructure needs of the town.”