In a year where numbers seem to be increasingly important – the Southampton Town 2009 budget shows that the changes in the tax rate are as high as they are permitted to go.
Residents in the town will see a five percent increase, which is the highest increase permitted in the town. For this year the increase is set to be $1.32 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from $1.25 per thousand last year.
Last year residents paid $629.10 in town taxes on a home worth $500,000 the budget proposes for 2009 that residents will pay $660.55 — an increase total of $31.45.
Supervisor Linda Kabot explained that the 2008 tax rate was 0 percent over the 2007 tax rate, but this year, the tax rate increase is five percent, which is capped by law and cannot exceed five percent over the previous year.
Also in the tentative budget, the total spending of the budget is $82.5 million, up from $76.7 million last year, inclusive of debt service for prior capital expenses, which includes beaches, docks, building and zoning, waste management funds and deficit allocations for prior spending in 2004-2007 for the police and highway funds, which total over $7 million.
Last week at a last and final board meeting on the town budget for 2009, Kabot said there was only one amendment filed so far for the tentative budget and that had to do with Community Preservation Fund (CPF) PILOTS for certain areas west of the Shinnecock Canal. The program gives tax breaks to residents in areas where large parcels have been taken off the tax rolls due to CPF purchases. In the tentative budget, Kabot proposed $3.8 million for the PILOTS program in 2009, while council members Anna Throne-Holst and councilman Chris Nuzzi proposed a larger amount for the program.
In 2007, the year-end audit indicated that 10 town funds are in the deficit position and owe the general fund over $7.2 million. Kabot says these deficits arose over the years 2004-2007 as a result of several factors, including the town’s use of surplus monies from the general fund as “one-shot” revenues.
Kabot said that during financially stable times, the town had allocated budgetary surplus to several different purposes.
Budget revenues for 2009 include $4.5 million appropriated from the surplus in order to artificially reduce the tax rate because of the five percent tax cap. The $4.5 million comes out of a variety of funds, including $2.25 million from the tax stabilization rainy day fund; $500,000 from part town land management fund; $1.5 million from the land management enterprise fund and $175,000 from the E-911 fund.
In Kabot’s tentative budget, she shows the rainy day fund balance for 2010 to be nearly $800,000. The budget, as proposed by Kabot, will have a general fund operating balance of just under $1 million.
Southampton Town board members have elected to not take a raise for 2009, and outlined in the tentative budget is a union employees’ raise of 2.5 percent, which has not yet been confirmed. Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst suggested last week that the raise be reduced to 1.5 percent. Throne-Holst has also proposed to shorten the workday by a half hour to save money. In addition all vacant positions in town hall left open for 2009 have also been abolished and Kabot says they will not be filled.Â