Tag Archive | "budget"

Storms Busting Snow Budgets

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Taking the reins from decades-long village employee Jim Early this fall, Sag Harbor Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley has experienced what Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride called “baptism by fire,” as Long Island experienced record snowfalls in December and January. This which has had a chilling impact on snow removal budgets.

With a storm that battered the northeast, raining down ice on the East End Tuesday and Wednesday, the National Weather Service reporting a 30 percent chance of snow on Saturday, and even more snowfall early next week, it does not appear there is an end in sight.

“And we have probably six more weeks to go,” said Mayor Gilbride.

Winter storms in late December and January brought anywhere from five to 12 inches of snow to Long Island, areas further west hit even harder in the tempests.

“It is certainly the worst winter weather-wise that I have seen since I have been on the board,” said Mayor Gilbride. “We are breaking records all over the place.”

In addition to breaking snow accumulation statistics, the seemingly continuous winter weather, broken up by just a few days of frigid sunshine in-between, has also impacted village and town budgets for snowfall removal.

In Sag Harbor Village, which has a budget year that begins each July as opposed to towns who begin budget years in January, the Department of Public Works has already blown through more than half of its budgeted monies for snow removal supplies and employee overtime.

According to Sag Harbor Village Clerk Beth Kemper, the village has budgeted $15,000 for supplies and has already spent $9,396. Overtime was budgeted at $45,000 for 2010-2011, and  $ 16,118.06 has already been spent.

And that was before the storm that hit the northeast Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Mayor Gilbride said while he does expect the village will exceed its budget for snow removal this year it does have a $50,000 contingency line to deal with such a situation.

Mayor Gilbride added that moving into budget talks later this month, one plan he would like to see implemented next year is municipally run sidewalk plowing in the village downtown, as well as around Sag Harbor schools.

By law, business owners and residents are responsible for clearing their own sidewalks, but after the January storm the village did clear some sidewalks around Sag Harbor. Mayor Gilbride said some residents, whose sidewalks they were unable to get to, chastised the village.

“It’s something we all have to work on,” he said. “We all have to do a better job — the village and the community at large. Today, I was driving down Jermain Avenue and kids were walking in the street to school, and rightfully so because a lot of the sidewalks were covered in two inches of snow and ice.”

In Southampton Town, Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said during the December storm, his department logged over 1,500 hours in regular and overtime hours and spent $57,000 in outside contractors. The total cost of the storm was $212,469, he said.

While the January snowfall was equally devastating to the area, Gregor said because it did not occur during the holidays, it was less costly. About $178,295 was spent clearing roads and sidewalks during that two-day storm.

His snow removal budget, Gregor estimated, will most certainly be exceeded this year.

“We have already asked for more money for salt,” he said. “We had $150,000 budgeted and we are asking for $240,000.”

The now three-year-long town hiring freeze frustrates Gregor, particularly during this kind of weather. Some districts within the town, he said, have just five or six employees working to keep the roads and sidewalks cleared and parking lots plowed when they used to have 12.

“When you have five people doing what 10 did, it is discouraging,” added Gregor. “But we keep going, because that is what we do.”

In East Hampton, Superintendent of Highways Scott King said that the cost of the last storm remains uncertain, but according to his estimates, the department spent a little over $100,000 in January combating snow and ice on town roads. He said he calculates that for every inch of snow, it costs the town about $13,400.

The town’s highway fund expenditures were budgeted this year at $5,525,397, although King noted costs for snow removal are located throughout several line items, including $65,000 budgeted solely for subcontracts for snow removal and $200,000 budgeted for snow removal supplies.

This week, the town board approved several budget transfers in the wake of the record snowfall, including $50,000 in surplus for snow and ice removal supplies, as well as $15,000 for subcontractors to plow parking lots and private roads.

With a hefty surplus, King is not worried that the town will be unable to keep roads cleared, but that if this pace keeps up, his budget will be tight and supplies like salt could be harder to come by, despite the town’s contract with the New York State Office of General Services.

On Tuesday, King said he was combing through the town’s contract with the state agency after finding promised loads of salt were not being delivered in a timely fashion, and believes he may be able to source the salt elsewhere and charge back to that state agency.

“It is tough to sit in this chair and look at the weather reports and think about safety and the budget at the same time,” said King. “You have be conscientious, but you also have to make it all work, and at the end of the day you are either a hero or a zero.”

As for this week, it is King’s hope snow will give way to rain.

“Hail and rain,” he hoped. “I would do a rain dance in front of Saks Fifth Avenue if I could assure it would guarantee us rain this weekend.”

Less Than Nothing

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Southampton Town is trying to pass a budget for the coming year. This is what municipalities do in this season — look ahead, make difficult decisions, tighten or loosen belts and get on with it.

The problem is, there are members of the Southampton Town board who, while objecting to some of the proposals included in the budget, aren’t offering any concrete solutions or suggestions about what to keep and what to toss overboard. And in the end, it’s very difficult to move a budget along if all the players aren’t participating.

No one wants to see taxes go up, and no one wants to see services cut. But when you’re on a board crafting a budget, just voicing objections to one item or the other isn’t going to suffice.

If board members want to introduce a new budget item, fine, and if they want to reduce the budget they need to suggest a way to do that as well. Because come Friday, the budget by law has to get passed and they need to have this together.

We’ve been watching the budget process over in East Hampton as well in recent weeks, and even with a split board, the board seems to have negotiated a reasonable budget crafted of the kind of give and take that is required in this process. A few community service items that had been cut were added back in and they seem to have moved much closer to an endgame.

But in Southampton there seems to be a lack of clarity about what the final dénouement will be. Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst wants to add a modest tax raise into the budget in order to pay off some of the debt the town has incurred in recent years. The logic being it might be a bit painful now, but in long term will get the town out of debt earlier. Is this the right thing to do? Maybe it is if it saves the town money in interest payments in the long run. Maybe it isn’t given the difficulties residents are still facing with the floundering economy.

But this is not the kind of debate that came up with this proposal. Instead of a give and take over the pros and cons of raising taxes or not, what we heard from councilman James Malone was a staunch refusal to increase taxes. What we heard from everyone else was even less.

It reminds us a lot what was said during the recent election season. Candidates who offered heartfelt pledges to spare taxpayers the pain of parting with any more of their hard earned money, but who never ultimately came forward with any plans or details about how government would function as a result.

Don’t get us wrong, we feel it’s fine to object to the notion of raising taxes and cutting of services. But board members who object owe it to the public they serve to bring concrete alternatives to the table and engage in real and fruitful debate. This is not a campaign. It’s a working budget. So let’s have the conversation.

Getting Out the Vote

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I
n the weeks leading up to the 2009 school board elections and budget vote, Sag Harbor lawns were littered with campaign materials for the four school board candidates. Compared to the school board race, the budget with a roughly four percent tax levy increase received less fanfare.
A year later, the school board race is uncontested and the eyes of the community are focused instead on the 2010-2011 budget. From parent groups and student organizations to union associations and members of the board, many groups involved in the Sag Harbor school district have been working to “get out the vote” on what appears to be a divisive budget.
The process of formulating the budget has been a contentious one and the end product is a $31,500,811 spending plan for next year. At a school board meeting Monday, school superintendent Dr. John Gratto reiterated that the proposed tax levy increase is 10.16 percent for East Hampton Town residents and 12.79 percent for Southampton residents. Despite trimming $1.8 million in proposed and existing spending, the spending increase for the proposed budget is 6.28 percent or $1,860,154.
School board member Mary Anne Miller said as a matter of policy, the board cannot adopt an official opinion on the budget, but as an individual she supports the spending plan and has encouraged community members to turn out for the vote. She noted though, that she has been hearing throughout the community the divisive nature of this year’s budget with even a few people opting to sit out this budget vote altogether.
At Monday’s meeting, resident Robert Cleary noted that many voters are facing the dilemma of wanting to vote down the budget as a statement against contractual salary and benefit increases for teachers, while knowing that further cuts to the budget would only effect the students.
“This really is about the students and voting ‘no’ won’t change what is happening with the teachers and the board,” PTSA President Colleen Grigonis remarked. “I am still scared that it is either this vote or contingency.”
During a later interview, Dr. Gratto reported that the board has yet to decide upon a second budget and is waiting until after the results of the first budget vote come in to have that discussion.
In conjunction with the PTA, Grigonis has been working on radio and prints ads, and will run a phone bank to stimulate voter turn out.
Members of Save Our School (SOS), a student run organization, have been handing out fliers with budget information in many neighborhoods, said Lindsay Cox, an SOS organizer. She added that SOS members are working with the PTSA on the radio ad. Fellow SOS member Sophie Parker noted that students are encouraging young Pierson graduates to vote.
Dr. Gratto has given the budget presentation 11 different times, excluding at board of education meetings. Teacher union leader Eileen Kochanasz added that the newly formed CAST association, made up of all the district’s bargaining units, have sent out two mailings to district families in support of the budget and financially contributed to the PTA and the PTSA.
This year, the board is looking to qualify the vote by conducting an anonymous exit survey. After voters leave the gymnasium, where voting will be held, they will be given a series of questions on why they voted for or against the budget. Dr. Gratto presented a preliminary survey on Monday, but many community members felt the questions were suggestive and should be more open ended. The board agreed to tweak the survey before Tuesday’s vote.
Miller noted, however, that a large voter turn out will accurately portray how the majority of the community feels about the proposed budget. Of the 5,339 registered voters in the Sag Harbor school district, only 1,802 voted on last year’s budget, though this was seen as a high voter turn out. Miller is hoping that at least 1,500 votes will be cast this year.
Dr. Gratto also noted that the board plans to meet with TASH Monday to continue talks on formulating a new contract and the proposed salary freeze for all district employees next year.
The 2010-2011 budget vote will be held in the Pierson gymnasium on Tuesday, May 18, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
To view the full budget presentation and the monetary impact on taxpayers visit the school’s website at http://www.sagharborschools.org/?q=node/2.

Challenge to School Budget Arises Targeting Teachers

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by Marissa Maier

With barely two weeks left before the Sag Harbor community votes on the school budget, an anonymous group of parents, who have dubbed themselves “The Reality Bandwagon,” have penned and distributed fliers around town critiquing the teacher’s union.
“What do you want to say to TASH?” asks one handout. “Vote May 18th. Pierson Gym,” it continues.
For many district residents, the 2010-2011 budget vote scheduled for May 18 is no longer about casting an aye or nay ballot for the proposed fiscal plan. Instead, those disgruntled by the portion of the budget devoted to salary increases, retirement contributions, and health benefit payments — coupled with ongoing negotiations for the teachers’ contract and a staff-wide raise freeze — see the vote as a way to express their dissatisfaction with TASH.
“The vote could go down because of unhappiness,” community member Nada Berry remarked at a budget forum held on Monday evening. School superintendent Dr. John Gratto and school business official Janet Verneuille had wrapped up a presentation on the spending plan for next school year moments before.
“People feel powerless,” resident Alexandra Eames noted. “Different aspects of the system are not functioning as well as they should be. I felt the only way I could voice my feelings is through the vote.”
Eames joined a few other locals who attended the meeting and are worried about their escalating taxes, not only school tariffs but town taxes as well. The tax rate levy increase for the $31.5 million budget is proposed at 10.16 percent for East Hampton town residents and 12.79 percent for Southampton residents.
“People are sensitized [right now]. I look at my food bill. The economy has left everyone a little raw and it affects everyone psychologically,” Eames added.
Verneuille noted the pension system is out of the school’s hands as the state determines the district’s contribution rate. The pension system is also dependent upon the health of the stock market. Next year, the school expects to pay $1,616,500 in retirement contributions for all school employees, representing an increase of $418,919 over last year’s budget.
“I live in the community and I am a taxpayer. It may make people feel better to say ‘no’ but voting down the budget won’t change these problems,” Verneuille said.
In a later interview, she noted that the school can cut costs for health benefits if the board negotiates the ability to offer a variety of medical insurance plans to teachers. The school expects to pay $3,023,000 on health and dental insurance next year accounting for an increase of $351,539. This is coupled with increases for salaries of around $927,850, which will bring total salary expense to $17,329,665. The retirement contributions, insurance payments, and salary benefits account for the three major increases in the 2010-2011 budget, said Verneuille. She added that approximately 75 to 80 percent of the budget covers staffing costs, though she noted “this makes sense when your product is the students.”
The board is hoping each school employee, including custodians, administrators and teaching assistants, will agree to forgo raises, and step increases for the teachers, for the next school year. The measure will likely save the school roughly $1.1 million. Dr. Gratto said on Monday that the school’s attorney is still in the midst of discussing the idea with the bargaining unit’s representative, who represents the teachers along with the other school employee unions.
Some members of the community are infuriated that the teacher’s haven’t led the way in agreeing to the wage freeze. The Reality Bandwagon highlighted articles in other publications discussing how educators across New York State — in districts like Brentwood and Roslyn — agreed to hold their raises in order to save positions. School board member Mary Anne Miller was in the audience on Monday evening and was careful to point out that some of these agreements hinged upon the fact that theses raises would be paid retroactively in the coming school years.
“I think the discussion tonight speaks to everyone’s concern about the sustainability of the school … Any other school board that makes a deal in a month isn’t looking outside the box or trying to change the culture,” she added. “[But] I don’t think the vote should be a statement on the impasse. Let the board deal with that.”
PTSA president Colleen Grigonis however expressed concerns that if the budget fails on May 18, it will only hurt the students. The board has the opportunity to put up the budget for a vote two times. If both votes fail, the board will have to adopt a contingency budget, meaning an additional $1,649,790 would need to be shaved off the $31.5 million budget.
“I think everyone sees their vote as a statement,” Grigonis said in a later interview. “My core group, we are all affected by the economy. It is hard for my husband and me [to pay the increase] but we think it is worth it for education … We are all worried whether [the budget] is going to pass.”

Malone Proposes Pre-K Spending

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Malone Proposes Pre-K Spending

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by Marissa Maier

At the Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting on Monday evening, Pierson principal Jeff Nichols brought out a five-inch wide binder. The hundreds of pages jammed into the blue binder contained Nichols’ and elementary school principal Matt Malone’s spending projections for both buildings in the next school year. The duo went over nearly every spending line at the BOE meeting on Monday evening, after working with educators for the past few months to craft the spending plan. Their proposed budget ranged from the regular, such as instructional salaries, to the exotic, like pre-kindergarten supplies and equipment, completing a rock climbing wall at the elementary school and conducting a graduate survey.

The instructional salaries accounted for the bulk of the proposed 2010-2011 budget. Salaries for educators from kindergarten through twelfth grade were around $8.48 million. This budget line increased by roughly $559,000 from last year. School superintendent Dr. John Gratto noted that Nichols and Malone estimated these figures around a 2.5 percent annual salary increase plus step, or the board’s last public offer proposed to the teachers. The school will likely spend about $316,000 on salaries for special needs teachers, accounting for a $29,500 increase. The total guidance counselor salaries are slated at roughly $423,000, which is up by about $18,000 from last year. The nurses’ overall contracts cost close to $109,000 including a $4,000 increase. Co-curricular salary payments, for clubs and after school programs, were estimated at $226,000, showing a rise of about $11,400. School business manager Janet Verneuille pointed out that these numbers only account for salaries and do not include retirement contributions.

Malone also mentioned expenses arising from establishing a pre-k program. He proposed $10,000 for equipment, play area and toys, $10,000 for classroom supplies, $10,000 for a fence and $91,800 for midday transportation for the program. Though, Malone mentioned the school would save $78,000 in transportation costs if the school purchased its own bus fleet.

He also proposed spending $3,000 to complete a rock climbing wall at the elementary school. Malone slated another $5,000 for a contract with BOCES to provide electronic elementary school report cards. Nichols proposed $5,000 for a visiting artist or professional, which he noted has long been a facet of the curriculum.

Nichols slated $2,200 in spending for a graduate survey. He explained the school supplies BOCES with basic information on Pierson’s graduates. Then BOCES tracks the students’ progress and rate of retention in institutes of higher education.

By the next meeting, on February 22, the board expects to present a rough summary of the total budget, data on state aid revenue, fund balance projections and town property assessments. He added that Governor David Paterson is proposing to cut $195,000 in aid to Sag Harbor. Dr. Gratto said it was a bit premature to make a verdict on whether or not the board will have to make cuts to the budget.

“There are so many questions. If we have to make a cut what will it be?” asked board president Walter Wilcoxen.
Board member Mary Anne Miller added, “I think it is important to spend as much time as possible having these discussions.”

Public Criticizes Youth and Senior Funding Cuts

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Supporters of youth and senior programs once again lobbied the Southampton Town Board during a budget hearing held on Tuesday to keep funding for 2010 intact. Executive Director of Alternatives Counseling Center Christina Epifania asked the board to be “courageous” regarding the youth and seniors in the community. Epifania said her staff has noticed local children are feeling the stress burdening their parents, and said the services provided by the town’s youth bureau are greatly needed at this time.
“If you take services away from the youth it is something you are going to pay for in the future,” remarked Epifania. During a later interview, Epifania said she worries young teenagers will turn to drugs and bad behavior if the number of available after school programs are limited.
Bonnie Cannon, the Executive Director of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center, added to Epifania’s sentiments. Cannon noted that cuts in youth funding will most likely affect those in the low to moderate income bracket. She added that the majority of clients served by the child care center are African-American or from the Latino community.
Members of the senior community commended the town on the services provided at the Bridgehampton and Hampton Bays senior centers, but said they believed proposed funding cuts would put the programming in jeopardy.
Supervisor Linda Kabot, however, explained that the 2010 preliminary budget doesn’t cut funding for the adult day care and transportation program. She said the decreases in funding stem from eliminating two administrative positions and reducing the budget of the nutrition program. The total funds cut for senior services amounts to $120,000.
Councilwoman Nancy Graboski presented a resolution to increase the Cablevision franchise fee from 4 percent to 5 percent. Currently, the town earns $1,000,000 in revenue from the franchise fee. By increasing the fee one percent, the town will gross approximately $1.25 million. A portion of the increased revenues could be spent on youth and senior programs and staff, noted Kabot. She added that the youth services program had far more draconian cuts than the senior program.
“These cuts don’t affect me personally, but I think I took this for granted. There are people around us who don’t have sports practice or a safe place to go after school. Even though these cuts may not affect your own children, they will affect the community,” noted a senior at Southampton High School, who is also a member of the Southampton Town Youth Board.
Although the board didn’t elaborate on any amendments to be made to the budget before it is filed on November 20, councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst announced she would gain close to $80,000 in savings from eliminating two positions in the supervisor’s office. Throne-Holst won the bid for supervisor on November 3 and will take office in January of 2010.
Though the budget hearing elicited a number of comments from the community, the audience shrunk by half when the board moved onto a hearing regarding piercing the five percent tax rate increase.
The preliminary budget calls for a full five percent tax rate increased, resulting in $33 additional taxes for a household valued at $500,000. The proposed tax rate for 2010 is tentatively set at $1.387 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
“The budget on the table is leaner than the budget we are operating from right now,” noted Kabot. However, this does not include the deficit in the capital fund. Kabot is proposing that the town surplus, or sell off, certain town owned properties that weren’t purchased with Community Preservation Funds to shore up a portion of the deficit in 2010 and then enact deficit reduction payments in the following budgets. If the town opts not to sell off surplus property, Kabot contended the five percent tax rate cap could be pierced to handle these deficits. The capital fund deficit is around $6 million, said Kabot. If the tax rate cap was pierced to handle these debts, it would roughly result in $60 in additional taxes for a home valued at $500,000. This figure excludes the $33 tax increase already slated for the operating budget.
The town will revisit the idea of piercing the five percent tax rate cap during a work session on Friday, November 13. On Friday, the town board will also hold a hearing on the preliminary budget. The budget must be adopted before Friday, November 20.

Disagreement Over Southampton Town Budget Process

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The process of adopting the 2010 Southampton Town budget is already off to a rocky start for the town board. At a work session on Friday, October 9, supervisor Linda Kabot and councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst differed over the process by which the budget was formulated. The board was set to vote on a resolution to turn the tentative budget into the preliminary budget, which would allow the town board to schedule public hearings. Citing her support of department heads, Throne-Holst declined to approve the resolution, saying she had wished there had been a more inclusive discussion in the creation of the budget.

“The department heads felt they hadn’t had any substantive input [in the budget],” said Throne-Holst during a later interview. She added that she first saw the full budget Thursday, the day before the work session. Although each department head had a meeting with Kabot as well as with comptroller Tamara Wright and their respective board liaison, Throne-Holst contended many department heads were still surprised by the proposals in the tentative budget.

“We spent lots of time with each and every department head and we asked each department head to make cuts,” argued Kabot. In a later interview, Kabot added, “Ultimately difficult decisions had to be made.”

The board was on a bit of a time crunch because the notice of the public hearing has to be set and publicly noticed five days before the general election, which gave the board until Tuesday, October 13, to convert the budget.

“There isn’t much we can do between now and Tuesday,” noted councilwoman Sally Pope on Friday. “I don’t support the budget process we have been through … We asked for zero based budgeting and we never did that.”

By the end of the meeting, four council members voted in favor of converting to a preliminary 2010 budget and the first in a series of public hearings is slated for Tuesday, October 27, at 6 p.m. The following hearing is set at Friday, October 30, at 1 p.m. And the final public hearing will be held on November 10 at 1 p.m. The board has until November 20 to adopt the final 2010 budget.

Proposed Budget Includes Layoffs and Tax Increases

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web town board

It was a somber day in Southampton Town Hall as supervisor Linda Kabot delivered the 2010 budget message. Kabot filed the tentative budget at the eleventh hour on Wednesday, September 30, with the town clerk. The contents of the preliminary fiscal plan was discussed during an emotionally fraught special meeting as Kabot announced tentative plans to layoff 48 town employees, to privatize the town’s animal shelter and to increase the tax rate by 5 percent.

Kabot, however, maintained that the light at the end of this financial tunnel is a fiscally sound budget, which will clear deficits in the Police and Highway Fund. She added that spending in 2010 will be cut by $4.5 million.

The overall budget for Southampton in 2010 is expected to be $78 million with an extra $800,000 slated for the general fund’s “Rainy Day Fund.” Budget documents showed that a home owner, with a property assessed at $500,000, will pay an additional $33 in town taxes in 2010. Last year, the tax rate was $1.321 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation. However, in 2009, almost $4.5 million of surplus was used for tax rate stabilization. In 2010, the tax rate is $1.387 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Next year, the town will not be able to use surplus monies for tax rate stabilization as they are focusing their efforts on replenishing the “rainy day” funds. Kabot further stated that she hoped to wean the town off of using surplus monies to reduce taxes.

Kabot added that the preliminary 2010 budget includes a plan to handled existing deficits in the Police and Highway Fund. These debts accrued from 2004 through 2007 and were funded through inter-fund borrowing, or “IOUs”, from the town’s general fund to the police and highway accounts. The 2010 tentative budget sets aside $3.6 million to pay off these and other debts with $1.4 million for the police fund and $1.5 million for the Highway Fund, $150,000 for the E-911 Fund and $150,00 for the Hampton Bays Water District. In the tentative budget, Kabot said she has laid down a plan to incrementally build up the reserves in the Police and Highway Fund over the next few years.

In order to clear some of these deficits, items from the expense side of the town’s ledger had to be cut and the tentative budget finds a bulk of its savings by cutting 48 positions. The town has already saved $600,000 through natural attrition and a hiring freeze in 2009, said Kabot. Mid-year cost saving measures for discretionary spending, equipment purchases and consultants were already enacted in 2009 and now, contends Kabot, the board must slice deeper to the bone. The proposed staffing cuts include the director of housing, the youth counselor, the assistant director of the youth bureau, six sanitation helpers in the waste management division, the assistant town director of public transportation and traffic safety, four law enforcement positions and all the positions associated with the animal shelter. If the board supports the proposed lay offs, these employee’s contracts will be terminated in January 2010.

An alternative to layoffs, said Kabot, is to enact a combination of wage freezes, lag pay, deferred compensation, early retirement incentive plans and salary parity adjustments. Kabot said the board was also exploring a mandatory week-long furlough. With a furlough, town hall would effectively shut down for an entire week. Kabot estimated this measure would save the town around $1 million.

The elimination of all the positions in the animal shelter hints at the town’s proposal to privatize this service next year. Kabot argued that over the last year the board has curtailed the shelter’s hours of operation and raised fees which led to a $300,000 savings for the town. However, Kabot maintained that the town spends $1 million per year to operate the shelter and isn’t required by law to provide this service. The town is mandated to have an animal control operation, said Kabot, but not a shelter. Kabot said she plans to put in a request for proposals, or RFPs, for private entities to lease the animal shelter facilities from the town. She added that the town’s existing staff could be put on a preferred hiring list for the private company who moves into the shelter.

Similarly, Kabot added that the town is exploring privatizing one or two of the town’s waste management transfer stations or closing down the stations a couple of days in the week. Kabot assured the public that the Westhampton and Hampton Bays stations would most likely be looked at for privatization as Sag Harbor has the most consistent use out of the town’s four facilities.

Although the final count for the capital budget deficit has yet to be released, Kabot said she expects the figure be brought down from $10 million to around $5 million. Kabot explained that several of the authorized monies intended for projects weren’t completed in full, thus reducing the size of the overall deficit. To correct these errors in the capital budget from the years 2004 through 2007,Kabot hopes the board will opt to do a deficit reduction plan within the town rather than deficit financing. Kabot argued that deficit financing diminishes the town’s credit score, forcing them to pay more in interest payments.

“The multi-million dollar Capital Fund requires more extensive remedial action and a multi-pronged approach that includes a 5-year repayment plan through a separate tax line listed on the property tax bills and an exemption from the five percent tax rate increase cap computation,” said Kabot in her budget message. Kabot later added that the town will also sell off surplus properties to pay off the Capital Fund debts.

North Haven Taxes Remain the Same

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Crafting a village budget is a bit of a guessing game. The village must anticipate supplies needed for storms and snowfall, and the number of home sales, renovations and constructions expected. In this sour economy, the modest-sized North Haven Village prepared for the worst but hoped for the best when drafting their $1,213,117 budget for 2009-10.
The board’s projected revenue from mortgage tax is around $130,000. Village clerk Georgia Welch confirmed an 18 percent decrease in mortgage tax receipts from 2008-2009, compared to the year before. She based the 2009-2010 mortgage tax revenue projections on this reduced percentage.
The revenue accrued from building permits and licenses have also taken a significant hit. From 2007 to 2008, the village earned around $170,000 in revenues from the building department. Steering a financially conservative course, the village budgeted $100,000 last year in permits and licenses. Welch believes North Haven will fall short this year — the village has only received $73,000 in licenses and permits thus far, though this figure is subject to change, as the books will be closed by May 31. For 2009-2010, the village took a more severe look at the future and budgeted only $73,000 in licenses and building permits revenues.
“Everything is down … Will we flat line? Will it get worse? I don’t know. But I think we are pretty conservative,” said Welch of the revenue decreases during the village’s public hearing on the 2009-2010 budget on Wednesday, April 15.
The light at the end of North Haven’s financial tunnel is the village tax rate, which will remain the same as last year, .00050 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. In 2010, a village resident who owns a home with an assessed value of $1 million will pay approximately $503.80 in village taxes. Through a combination of a seven percent decrease in fire and ambulance contracts and by dipping into the fund balance by $218,751, the village was able to maintain this tax rate for residents.
“We can’t use that fund balance forever,” warned deputy mayor Jeffrey Sander.
“I don’t know how sustainable this is,” Welch later added, though she remarked that North Haven is faring far better than larger municipalities.
“A lot of places don’t have a healthy fund balance and have nothing to fall back on,” noted village mayor Laura Nolan.
One reason the village is in such good standing is because it has little to no debt. In the coming fiscal year, the village estimates it will spend only $6,473 on debt services. The village’s debt was incurred by the restoration of Cove’s End Lane many years ago. The debt is paid for by the property owners on Cove’s End Lane through an additional road tax.
Though the village has little in the way of borrowed money and a stable fund balance, Welch noted North Haven is limited in the ways it can procure income.
“We don’t have many avenues for revenue in our village as larger scale municipalities [get federal money],” Welch observed. “Hopefully the budget proposed will be enough, but we are only as good as the revenues we get.”
The public hearing was closed without public comment and the tentative 2009-2010 budget was passed unanimously.
Crafting a village budget is a bit of a guessing game. The village must anticipate supplies needed for storms and snowfall, and the number of home sales, renovations and constructions expected. In this sour economy, the modest-sized North Haven Village prepared for the worst but hoped for the best when drafting their $1,213,117 budget for 2009-10.
The board’s projected revenue from mortgage tax is around $130,000. Village clerk Georgia Welch confirmed an 18 percent decrease in mortgage tax receipts from 2008-2009, compared to the year before. She based the 2009-2010 mortgage tax revenue projections on this reduced percentage.
The revenue accrued from building permits and licenses have also taken a significant hit. From 2007 to 2008, the village earned around $170,000 in revenues from the building department. Steering a financially conservative course, the village budgeted $100,000 last year in permits and licenses. Welch believes North Haven will fall short this year — the village has only received $73,000 in licenses and permits thus far, though this figure is subject to change, as the books will be closed by May 31. For 2009-2010, the village took a more severe look at the future and budgeted only $73,000 in licenses and building permits revenues.
“Everything is down … Will we flat line? Will it get worse? I don’t know. But I think we are pretty conservative,” said Welch of the revenue decreases during the village’s public hearing on the 2009-2010 budget on Wednesday, April 15.
The light at the end of North Haven’s financial tunnel is the village tax rate, which will remain the same as last year, .00050 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. In 2010, a village resident who owns a home with an assessed value of $1 million will pay approximately $503.80 in village taxes. Through a combination of a seven percent decrease in fire and ambulance contracts and by dipping into the fund balance by $218,751, the village was able to maintain this tax rate for residents.
“We can’t use that fund balance forever,” warned deputy mayor Jeffrey Sander.
“I don’t know how sustainable this is,” Welch later added, though she remarked that North Haven is faring far better than larger municipalities.
“A lot of places don’t have a healthy fund balance and have nothing to fall back on,” noted village mayor Laura Nolan.
One reason the village is in such good standing is because it has little to no debt. In the coming fiscal year, the village estimates it will spend only $6,473 on debt services. The village’s debt was incurred by the restoration of Cove’s End Lane many years ago. The debt is paid for by the property owners on Cove’s End Lane through an additional road tax.
Though the village has little in the way of borrowed money and a stable fund balance, Welch noted North Haven is limited in the ways it can procure income.
“We don’t have many avenues for revenue in our village as larger scale municipalities [get federal money],” Welch observed. “Hopefully the budget proposed will be enough, but we are only as good as the revenues we get.”
The public hearing was closed without public comment and the tentative 2009-2010 budget was passed unanimously.

Did Their Homework

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This week we learned the final numbers for the 2009-2010 Sag Harbor School District budget, and though we know times are tough financially for schools and taxpayers alike these days, we feel the school board has come up with a fair and reasonable spending plan.

The proposed budget is $29.5 million and it’s something the administration has clearly labored over for months. We feel the board has taken into consideration an array of concerns from different community organizations and individuals who attended meetings related to the budget in recent months, and the board has remained flexible.

We also understand the board has had to take into consideration the current dismal state of the economy and, as witnesses from the front row, no one can say board members have not done their homework in putting together a well thought out package.

When school superintendent Dr. John Gratto visited the Noyac Civic Council meeting to explain portions of the school budget, it was very well measured. Dr. Gratto’s presentation initiated discussions with the civic council on intelligent cost-saving measures, including the purchase of a bus and van which, in the years to come, will allow the district to cut the costs of some transportation services provided by an outside company. Other measures considered spoke to the concerns of residents in the district, including the decision to cut services purchased from BOCES.

And while $29.5 million is not an insignificant amount of money, remember this: this May, should the budget fail to pass after two public votes, the district’s contingency budget would automatically be enacted. The amount of the contingency budget is just $200,000 less than the proposed budget — which equates to a tax savings of $35 a year on the average $1 million property.

As taxpayers, we don’t want to get hit with a huge increase in these troubled times. As parents, we don’t want to see deep cuts to programs for our local school kids. We feel this school board has done a very admirable job in serving both sets of constituencies.