Tag Archive | "2009"

Southampton Town Budget – Almost There

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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. 

Human Services will take a hit in Southampton for 2009

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The Southampton Town board started their Tuesday night board meeting by giving what supervisor Linda Kabot described as “belated awards” to honor three local citizens for their work in transportation improvement.

The awards were given to Rich Warren, Ann LaWall and Buzz Schwenk in honor of their hard work along County Road 39 in Southampton. In the same evening, the town board discussed their 2009 tentative budget, and how they will deal with what Kabot has called, “a year where many will be under tremendous financial constraints.”

Last Friday a public hearing was held for the $82 million preliminary budget proposed by Kabot. The tentative budget proposes a five-percent increase in tax levies for Southampton town and using “rainy day” funds to relieve this tax increase. Kabot praised fellow board members for using a “big red marker” and for “sharpening their pencils” to create cuts to possibly give the town greater tax relief. But members of the community came to the hearing to talk about cuts to certain human service departments.

Doctor Larry Weiss, Vice President for Programs at Family Service League, spoke about his concern for cuts to the human service departments within the town. He first thanked the board for their help in providing funding, particularly for the youth within the town in need of family counseling. He explained that the funding his organization has received in the past was upwards of $100,000 a year for mental health, and this funding provided for a very successful program for the children in the community.

“As I understand, it is not included in the 2009 proposed budget, and I urge you to consider the impact on the emotional well-being of children and their families, and the mental services they need,” Weiss said on Friday.

Christopher Halucha, also from the Family Service League, spoke about the importance of funding social services.

“The statistics show that 1 out of 10 children have a serious mental illness,” he said. “And only 30 percent of those children in the country graduate with a high school diploma. If you look at the statistics for Southampton, they are pretty comparable – they don’t go outside the norm.”

Halucha added that his organization provides the youth of the community the mental health services it needs.

“There is an extremely long waiting list,” he said.

Halucha also relayed an experience that he had earlier this year. He told the board that his car was stolen and when he reported it, six police cars responded. He then explained that the unknown person who stole the car, if caught, would then have to use the police and judicial systems. But, Halucha argues, if youth are offered counseling, they may not resort to crime in the first place. Ultimately, he said, it is costing the town more money to take funding away from these services.

At Tuesday night’s town board meeting, Elizabeth Yennie from The Retreat, a non-profit organization that helps women and children escape domestically violent situations, explained that a cut in funding of $2,000 from the town, even though it is not much, makes a huge difference to her organization. She said a few years ago The Retreat was at 80 percent capacity, but this year, they are at 100 percent capacity.

“A cut of $2,000 is a lot of money — it’s four months of someone getting counseling,” she said. 

Kabot said there are no straight line cuts. She said the cuts are coming from an annual grant program that allows $100,000 for health and human service agencies. Kabot said that in the last two years, the town was even able to increase this amount to $150,000. She also said that there are two things that increase during a financially stressful time: public safety needs due to stresses and the need for social services and the prevention of violence in families.

Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who is the human service liaison for the town board, said that the program is a vital service to the community.

“We are working with the community service department,” said Throne-Holst. “And I know how hard it is considering how broke our health care is.”

But she assured Yennie, “I will fight for this.”

Kabot said that the 2009 budget includes cuts to certain contracts and programs where the board has proposed to cut back some funding.

“For recipients for these services for families, that relationship has been a worthwhile pursuit and tough decisions have to be made,” she said. 

At Friday’s hearing, Kabot said that the number of employees at town hall seems to be increasing by about 15 people per year, and she along with other board members will be looking at freezing vacancies for 2009. Kabot also commended department heads for offering cuts and volunteering to cut back additional expenses.