By Kathryn G. Menu
Bill Wilkinson has introduced his fourth and final budget as East Hampton Town Supervisor, proposing a $69.96 million spending plan for 2014.
“Our motivation was and continues to be quite simple,” said Wilkinson in his budget message. “Let us ensure that we have a municipal government that safeguards our environment and quality of life and makes this town affordable; not for the ‘one percenters’, but for all those families that for generations have made our town the pride of the East End and where their future generations can retain their presence.”
According to the supervisor, the tentative budget he has presented to the town board “continues the financial recovery the town has experienced over the last four years.”
The tentative budget increases spending $882,170 over the $69.07 million 2013 budget, representing a 1.28 percent budget increase over the current spending plan.
According to Wilkinson’s budget, the tentative spending plan will stay within the state mandated two-percent property tax levy cap. The basic cap this year is 1.66 percent. According to the budget, the town has a $277,585 credit and an additional $83,964 credit for payments made into the town’s police department retirement that has enabled it to stay under the tax cap by just over $66,000. The total amount to be raised by property taxes to fund the tentative 2014 budget is $48,399,675, a $1,332,118 or 2.83 percent increase over the current budget.
If adopted, the 2014 budget would raise tax rates for residents living outside of East Hampton and Sag Harbor villages by 2.76 percent. Residents in East Hampton and Sag Harbor villages could expect a tax rate increase of 1.8 percent.
Outside of the villages, a home with a market value of $960,000 could expect an increase in taxes of $53.97. Residents in East Hampton and Sag Harbor villages with the same market value could expect an increase of $13.86.
A majority of the budget — $42,269,191or 58.99 percent — is earmarked to cover salaries and employee benefits. Almost half of the $17.8 million proposed to cover the cost of employee benefits will be spent on health insurance.
There are no layoffs proposed in the spending plan.
The 2014 tentative budget still represents a $1,762,446, or 2.46 percent, decrease over the budget Wilkinson inherited from the previous administration in 2010 under Supervisor Bill McGintee.
“My four budgets culminate with a 2014 Tentative Budget that delivers government and services to the people of East Hampton at a cheaper rate than they were charged when we came into office four years earlier,” said Wilkinson in the budget statement. “If we take the 2010 budget presented to us from the prior administration; adjust by inflation for years 2011 through 2014; and then factor the effect of our financial efforts over that same period of time, our performance has led to $50 million dollars of tax savings for the East Hampton taxpayers.”
Wilkinson noted the town has also absorbed in those four years over $22 million in deficit financing while continuing to lower its budgets and tax rates, which includes debt service on deficit borrowing. Wilkinson said another $11.5 million is scheduled to be paid down in 2014.
Moody’s, noted Wilkinson, has recognized the Town of East Hampton’s fiscal efforts with an upgrade to its bond rating back to the Aa category. The town was recently awarded a $536,000 Local Government Performance and Efficiency Program Award for implementing a comprehensive organizational restructuring of town government, downsizing 26 separate departments into 13 departments and realizing $4.2 million in savings, an 18 percent drop in the tax levy.
“We believe our plan is a model that has allowed us to budget for 2014 without having to implement any further staff cuts or abolishment of services like we continue to see occurring in other towns and counties on Long Island and in New York State,” said Wilkinson in his budget message. “We believe we were able to get where we are today by being ahead of the curve in dealing with the imminent global financial crisis and the added burden of a $27 million 2009 general fund deficit, a situation that no other municipality on Long Island had to confront.”