By Kathryn G. Menu
Last Wednesday, March 20, the Sag Harbor Village Board presented its tentative budget of $8,263,381 — a spending plan that falls under the state mandated two percent tax cap, but reduces the police force by eliminating one officer through attrition and another through layoffs.
The budget also proposes not replacing a laborer position in the department of public works.
The tentative 2013-2014 budget represents a 2.57 percent increase over this year’s $8.06 million budget. Treasurer Eileen Tuohy said state mandated tax levy cap for Sag Harbor is 4.1 percent.
According to Mayor Brian Gilbride, the village will use $65,000 of $1 million in reserves to offset the tax increase.
According to a budget worksheet, a house assessed at $795,000 would pay $2,220.44 in village property taxes, compared with $2,165.58 last year.
Gilbride and trustee Ed Gregory both noted a majority of the spending increases are directly linked to rises in health care costs and retirement benefits.
On Wednesday, Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano sharply criticized cuts to his department via a letter read by trustee Kevin Duchemin, the board’s liaison to the department.
Chief Fabiano said he was only informed of the decision to layoff one of his officers at the last budget work session.
“I would like you all to know this officer will be David Driscoll,” said Fabiano, noting the two-year member of the department was named its officer of the year due to his work with the East End DWI Task Force and commitment to child safety programming.
Driscoll would be the second member of the force the chief would lose in the last year. Officer Michael Gigante left the force last year to work with another department amid what has become a contentious contract negotiation between the village and the police benevolent association (PBA).
If Driscoll’s position on the force is removed, that will leave the Sag Harbor Village Police Department with 10 officers and a chief.
“I am asking the board to keep this position in the budget as it is vital to the department’s staffing and scheduling needs,” writes the chief, noting two state studies have shown the department is already understaffed.
PBA President Patrick Milazzo said he would like to see if a committee could come up with alternatives to a flat layoff.
Gregory said before they can talk about saving the position they have to know what it will ultimately cost and that figure won’t be available until arbitration was settled.
Gilbride asked if the PBA would agree to a zero percent salary increase for three years in order to save the position.
“We are not going to talk about the contract publicly,” said Milazzo.
“Am I interested in saving Dave’s job? I would love to save Dave’s job,” said board member Robby Stein, but he added with the department taking 40 percent of the budget, retirement is increasing each year and there are other projects residents want funded outside of police services.
A public hearing on the budget will be held on April 3 at 4 p.m.