Town Supervisors Release Tentative 2013 Budgets

Posted on 02 October 2012

The tentative 2013 budgets for both East Hampton and Southampton towns are in. And both East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst are discussing fiscal restraint in their 2013 budget messages.

On September 25, Supervisor Throne-Holst presented her tentative budget to the Southampton Town Board.

The $82.7 million budget represents a zero-percent tax levy increase over the 2012 budget with an identical tax levy of $57 million, keeping it well below the state’s mandated two-percent property tax levy cap, said Throne-Holst

The budget does increase spending by about $2.4 million, primarily due to mandated costs like increases in salaries and benefits.

According to a budget message issued by Throne-Holst last week, the town’s ability to increase its fund balance in 2013 while maintaining a flat tax levy as mandatory costs like increases in insurance, retirement, workers compensation, legal fees, debt service costs and contractual expenditures increase is made possible by two key factors. First, over the last two years the town has reduced its staff by 18 percent and secondly, the town has accrued a surplus in operating funds.

In the tentative budget, staffing remains consistent, as do current town services and programs.

The budget also proposed to restructure the capital program to create a “pay as you go” fund in the operating budget.  That move, Throne-Holst said, will allow the town to reduce its borrowing costs, annual debt services costs and respond to unanticipated needs without a fund balance transfer.

“A goal of this budget was to limit our capital spending to $3 million, instead of the usual $8 to $10 million, in order to prepare for the peak in our debt service costs that will occur in 2014,” said Throne-Holst. “I firmly believe in a budget model that projects two years ahead so that we can anticipate these increases in costs, and plan accordingly. ”

“Transitioning some of the capital fund items into a pay-as-you-go fund is an example of a new practice that will allow us to better prepare for the peak in debt service, and also makes more sense from an operational perspective,” she added.

A public hearing on Throne-Holst’s tentative budget will be held on October 23 at 6 p.m. The Southampton Town Board is expected to vote on the budget on November 20, the state mandated deadline for budget adoption.

In East Hampton, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson submitted his budget just in time for the September 30 deadline.

That tentative 2013 spending plan proposes a $69 million budget, a $3.3 million or five percent increase over the approved 2012 budget.

However, according to Wilkinson’s budget message, the spending plan will not pierce the state mandated two-percent property tax levy cap. According to Wilkinson, the increase in the tax levy in this budget would be about 3.17 percent, however, because the town experienced a 1.73-percent decrease in its 2012 tax levy a portion of that decrease is credited to 2013, leaving East Hampton’s actual tax levy cap at 4.19 percent.

According to Wilkinson’s budget message, the proposed $3 million in additional spending contains $1,083,812 in increases tied directly to the town’s Scavenger Waste Plant and the East Hampton Airport.

The fate of the Scavenger Waste Plant —  an ongoing debate between town board members who are divided on what to do with the aging facility — will have to be born out during budget talks this fall. In his tentative budget, Wilkinson has only appropriated monies to run that facility for the first three months of 2013.

The budget also proposes to add a new position in the justice court, eliminating the need for the court to be closed one day a week and puts $559,000 total dollars into the contingency accounts for all funds for unanticipated expenses.

The 2013 tentative budget still represents a $2,68 million, or 3.74 percent decrease over the inherited 2010 budget of $71.7 million, noted Wilkinson. He adds that under his administration in the first three budgets, the tax rate for those living outside the villages has decreased by 13.19 percent, and for those living inside the villages the decrease has been 28.69 percent.

The East Hampton Town Board will host a public hearing on its budget at its November 1 meeting, with the board expected to vote on the spending plan on November 15 in advance of the state’s November 20 deadline.

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