As the nation braces for tough economic times, it looks like the Village of Sag Harbor is attempting to be pro-active to avoid its own fiscal shortfall.
On Tuesday, October 14 Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris announced that after sitting down with the village treasurer and administrator it appears the village is looking at a $215,000 shortfall for the 2008-09 fiscal year.
“Rather than waiting until the year ends, we are going to start to take some action at this point,” said Ferraris, noting the treasurer has been asked to carve out discretionary spending items in the budget for further review and all departments have been asked to cut roughly nine percent in spending to avoid the shortfall.
“This is a guideline at this point,” said Ferraris, noting if finances begin to track differently a change can be made, but right now he would like to see the village be proactive in avoiding a shortfall, which would have a negative impact on the next fiscal year’s spending plan.
“We want to make sure we don’t end in a deficit,” explained Ferraris on Wednesday. “Our goal here is not to move into 2009-10 with a tax increase and we might need to dip into the fund balance then to do that, so we don’t want to dip into the fund balance now.”
Ferraris said the shortfall was a result of overestimating revenues from mortgage taxes, interest earnings and fines, for the most part. The harbors and docks had a strong summer for this fiscal year, he added, which he hopes will make up for any shortfalls in revenue this coming spring.
Overall, said Ferraris, he does not anticipate the village having to deal with this on an annual basis, but rather just through the end of this fiscal year. The discretionary items that will be put off, he added, are not luxuries, but rather items departments truly need, but will be asked to hold off on purchasing when possible until the 2009-10 year kicks off in July.
Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the replacement of the wrought iron fence, concrete wall and sidewalk at the Old Burial Ground is one thing that will have to be delayed, said Ferraris at the board meeting.
For two years now, the village has looked towards the project, bids came in well above what the village planned on spending on the project, prompting Ferraris to contact the Town of Southampton for assistance. The problem? He has yet to get a response.
Village clerk Sandra Schroeder was empowered to contact town councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, a Sag Harbor resident, about the matter. On Wednesday, Ferraris said ultimately the project must be completed.
“If we need to discuss bonding this, that is something we will have to do,” he said.
Residents of Sag Harbor who live on the Southampton Town side of the village will only have one Grievance Day – in May and in Hampton Bays – instead of two, for both their village and town taxes if a proposal to turn over board of assessment duties to the town is adopted by the village.
On Tuesday, Ferraris brought up the concept, which would have no impact on East Hampton Town residents who live in the village. Currently, Sag Harbor contracts with Southampton Town for assessment services, although the village board of trustees still serves as the assessment board, hearing out grievances on the village’s February Grievance Day. If the trustees opted to eliminate itself as the assessment board, village residents on the Southampton side would only have to grieve both their town and village taxes at one location and at one time, instead of two, explained Southampton Town Assessor and Sag Harbor Trustee Ed Deyermond.
The board will hold a public hearing on the change at its November 12 meeting.
Village consultants received a communication from an attorney representing East End Ventures, the firm proposing to develop luxury condos and boat slips at 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road on Sag Harbor’s waterfront, asking whether new planning board member Nathan Brown would be recusing himself from the environmental review of the project based on comments he made last February.
Brown, then a member of Save Sag Harbor, who has since submitted his resignation to that organization, was reported as saying, “I am totally against the project,” at a Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor forum on the development in February. It was that statement and his affiliation with Save Sag Harbor, which has a sister organization, Save our Waterfront that was formed in opposition to the project, that prompted the attorney’s query.
According to village attorney Fred Thiele, Brown will not need to recuse himself as case law dating back to the 1980s allows the appointment of members of the community, regardless of their affiliation with groups connected to a project or application.
“It’s not a conflict and certainly will not prevent Mr. Brown from participating in any or all applications,” said Thiele.
Brown was officially made a member of the planning board at Tuesday night’s meeting. At the start of the evening, Ferraris also presented former member Jerome Toy, who resigned from the board this fall, with a certificate of appreciation for his nine years of service.
“The dedicated people like yourself, and all the board members who serve in a volunteer capacity is what makes this community what it is,” said board member Brian Gilbride. “All cogs in the wheel …”
In other village news, the board will hold a public hearing on November 12 to extend the commercial moratorium in the village another six months past its December expiration.
According to trustee Tiffany Scarlato, the village’s proposed zoning code is well on its way towards public hearings; however, village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren is still in the process of developing an impact statement on the code, which is required by law.Â