Tag Archive | "budget"

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.

 

 

Preliminary Budget Eyed

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By Marissa Maier

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees and the village department heads rolled up their sleeves last Friday, March 20, and pored over a tentative draft of the village budget for 2009 to 2010 totaling $7.4 million. The meeting was the first in a series the village will hold before finalizing the budget and hosting a public hearing.

Anticipating a budgetary shortfall in fall 2008, Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris asked each department to tighten their belts, avoid expensive and large purchases and “do more with less.”

Village treasurer Eileen Tuohy attributed the $215,000 shortfall to a decrease in non-real property tax revenue. Non-real property tax funds are collected from building permit receipts, dock slip receipts, state aid, and interest from the village savings account, among other sources. With interest rates at their lowest level in years, coupled with a decrease in dock receipts and rising contractual obligations, the village has been forced to economize.

Tuohy hopes continued austerity spending will help the village “break even” in the coming fiscal year. As the trustees analyzed the draft budget line-by-line, Ferraris said, “This is a pretty bare bones budget. We made cuts everywhere we could.”

Some village departments, like the police department and the highway department, are slashing spending through attrition. While Ed Downes, president of the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps, is holding off on his long term goal of purchasing a third ambulance vehicle, he still must purchase new medical supplies every year.

In the building department, building inspector Tim Platt was able to decrease the overall budget for code enforcement, but said new costs will be incurred because New York State will no longer pay for new code books or training for code personnel. Trustee Tiffany Scarlato said monies paid by the building department for application consultant fees will now be paid out of the planning board and zoning board of appeals budget. In discussing additional costs, Ferraris added that a majority of the police department personnel are at the highest salary step.

Although he commended the departments for their work in paring down the budget, Ferraris said, “If there are items you really need tell us.”

For the fiscal year 2009 to 2010 the projected general fund budget is $7,444,557.68 and the projected tax rate is .002638 percent, although these figures and rates are subject to change. Under the current tax rate of .002605 percent, the owner of a home assessed at $1 million pays approximately $2,605 for village property taxes. If the budget were adopted as it currently stands today, the same homeowner would pay $2,638 in taxes.

“These numbers are subject to change. This is just a preliminary draft and more changes will be made [and presented] this Friday [March 27],” said Tuohy. “[The board] is working very hard to keep [the tax rate] at a very minimal increase.”

Tuohy added that the village fire department still has to present its budget to the board. The next meeting on the tentative budget will be held on Friday, March 27, at 4 p.m. in Sag Harbor Village Hall.

Sagaponack Village Budget

On Monday at Sagaponack Village Hall, the village board of trustees held a work session on their tentative budget, which mayor Don Louchheim presented last week during a regular monthly meeting.

The budget, proposed at $548,809, is just over $4,000 less than last year’s budget, which was $552,873.

A homeowner with a property assessed at $1 million can expect to pay $82.80 in taxes, down from $83.40 last year.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 13, at 4 p.m.

Sagaponack Budget comes in just over $500,000

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On Monday, at their regular board meeting, the Sagaponack board of trustees were given their first look at Mayor Don Louchheim’s tentative budget. The spending plan is expected to be just over half-a-million dollars and residents may be seeing a slight reduction in their property taxes if the tentative budget is adopted.
Louchheim gave his 2009-2010 budget message and during the presentation, announced that, despite the acquisition and renovation of the new village hall, there would be “no increase in the village tax rate, for the third year in a row.”
Further, Louchheim added, “village taxpayers will continue to pay no more in total property taxes than they would have if the village had not been incorporated.”
Total spending in the new budget is estimated at $548,809, down slightly from the $552,873 the year prior.
According to Louchheim, the new debt service costs from the village hall project “will be offset by lower, more realistic projections” of the net costs of the land use department, based on its first full year of operations.
He also noted that village voters approved borrowing up to $2 million for the project — but the total cost of the building was held at $1.5 million and the bond is expected to be less than $1 million.
Louchheim also explained for a home assessed at $1 million, it will cost a homeowner $82.80 in taxes, which is a slight reduction from $83.40 last year.
On Monday, Louchheim also announced projections for revenues other than property taxes including mortgage taxes, franchise taxes and other fees — which he said would be $283,350.
Louchheim said the amount expected to be raised by property taxes would be $265,459. According to the mayor, the tax levy also includes $100,000 to be added to a capital reserve fund for future road improvement projects, as has been done in the last two years.
“During the previous and current fiscal years the village has achieved operating surpluses, primarily as a result of higher than expected mortgage tax receipts,” said Louchheim. He said the bulk of these surplus funds will be used to reduce the amount borrowed for the village hall project.
Although village voters approved borrowing up to $2 million for the project, the total cost of the new village hall and renovations to the property were held at $1.5 million. According to Louchheim, the bond issue amount for the new village hall is expected to be no more than $1 million.
“The new budget includes a one-time expense of $37,000 in fees for the bond issue and a debt service cost of $74,854 for 2009-2010,” the mayor said. He added that until the bond is retired, the annual debt service amount will be “about the same.”
“So there should be no adverse debt service impact on future tax rates,” said the mayor.
In closing, Louchheim said he was proud of the young village government, which he added has achieved a “great deal in a short period of time.”
“We are fortunate to have truly involved and highly motivated residents on our board of trustees and two land use boards, as well as a talented, dedicated and enthusiastic administrative staff,” said Louchheim who told the trustees he believed they would find the budget to be fairly “straight forward.”
In the tentative budget, revenue from the building department is projected to be half of what was collected over 2008-2009. Likewise, mortgage tax revenue is also expected by the mayor to see a reduction of $122,620 over last year.
Trustee Alfred Kelman said the budget appeared to be a “superb analysis.”
On Monday, March 23, there will be a work session on the tentative budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, at 4 p.m. at village hall in Sagaponack.
In other Sagaponack news, the village hall is moving forward as planned. The building repairs and “touch-ups” have been completed, according to the mayor. The parking lot and the sidewalk were expected to be finished earlier this week.
Kelman said he visited the new site on Monday and joked that he engraved his initials into the sidewalk.
Village clerk Rhodi Winchell gave other updates for the new village hall and how it is progressing. She said the sprinkler and lawn are now completed, the fencing and floors have been re-done and the phone system has been ordered.
Louchheim said he is working on buying lumber and finishing a new table for the village hall.
The trustees also looked at some possible signage for the new building. Deputy Mayor Lee Foster showed a possible design of the new sign that would hang outside village hall along Montauk Highway.
Trustee Joy Sieger was concerned about the size of the lettering on the sign that was estimated to be four inches in height. She said motorists might have a hard time making out the wording.
Sieger also noted that a flag pole would need to be considered for their new hall.

Sag Harbor School’s Budget Advisory Committee Proposes $29.5 million

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The projected Sag Harbor school budget for next year is $29.5 million, a 3.3 percent increase over last year’s spending plan, although those numbers are not final.

The Sag Harbor school district’s budget advisory committee (BAC) has been meeting regularly to work on the 2009-2010 school budget to bring their recommendations to the board. On Monday, school superintendent Dr. John Gratto headed the meeting and said that he would be giving a “condensed version of the budget.”

Gratto explained that some of the major increases over last year’s budget include teacher salaries and the district’s contribution to the teacher retirement system. The district was required to estimate the increase in teacher salaries because teacher contract negotiations are still being hashed out.

The estimated increase for teacher salaries is just over $800,000, the teaching assistant salaries have an increase of $190,000 and the district’s contribution to the retirement system is estimated at an additional $40,763.

This year, the BAC also worked on reducing expenditures and cutting costs. In doing so, the committee shaved $278,825 from the BOCES contract by changing certain services provided by BOCES. Gratto also announced, that the school was able to save $126,549 by purchasing a bus and a van.

There was also $40,000 savings from the combination of the Athletic Director and Facility Manager positions and a $17,899 savings in a reduction for dental insurance costs.

In their findings, the BAC and the district administration also outlined that the estimated tax rate per $1,000 assessed value is a 5.78 percent increase for East Hampton ($660.80 to $699) and a 5.8 percent increase for Southampton residents ($4.03 to $4.26).

The draft budget also has a 2.5 percent buffer, adding approximately $600,000 for unforeseen expenditures.

That buffer became a point of contention at the meeting, when Mary Lynne Hess, BAC member, thought that it would not be enough of a cushion.

“We need to accrue for the retirement for next year,” she said.

But former school board president Walter Tice, a BAC member, said, “This is one of those unusual years, the amount is uncertain from this year to next year’s budget.”

School board member Mary Anne Miller said that some school districts go up to eight percent, which is highly controversial in those areas, but the state comptrollers recommend at the most, an increase of four percent. Gratto said that he thought the 2.5 percent “buffer” is a good compromise.

Chuck Neuman, president of the Noyac Civic Council, said that he was concerned about covering the costs of retirement. 

“Len [Bernard, business manager for the district] and I did a cost analysis for retirement,” Gratto said, “but we don’t have that many teachers at the age of retirement.”

These preliminary numbers will be presented to the board of education on February 23, leaving an entire month for the board to make changes before it needs to be finalized.

Also during Monday’s meeting, BAC member Sandy Kruel asked the superintendent about a rumor that the district was canceling its participation in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Gratto replied that “it is not false,” and informed the room that he sent a letter to the organization in an effort to save $5,000 — the membership fee.

Gratto said that could change, now that he has received feedback from others.

“Now I’ve been hearing what a terrible decision that was,” he said.

Kruel said that it is a “great program,” and that the organization offers a scholarship of nearly $30,000 to one graduating senior from the school — every year.

“I can reverse that decision,” Gratto said.

But Noyac resident and BAC member Elena Loreto was not in favor of keeping the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in the school.

“I think it is a great thing, that is $5,000 we can use somewhere else,” said Loreto.

 

 

Bad News From the County

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Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman presented some pretty grim news to the Sag Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Town of Southampton on Friday, January 9. Schneiderman updated the CAC on the state of the county budget and legislative reforms for housing county sex offenders.
Schneiderman was a member of the budget working group that finalized the county’s 2009 budget. Nearly $1.2 billion of the county’s $3 billion yearly budget is garnered from sales tax. The budgetary group had predicted that sales tax revenues would increase by one percent for this fiscal year, but Schneiderman believes it will shrink for the first time since he was elected to the county legislature.
“Ten years ago, [sales tax revenues] were growing by seven or eight percent a year,” Schneiderman told the CAC. “[This year] there may be less goods sold than the year before and that would be devastating to the county in terms of delivering services.
This year, Schneiderman’s office reduced the number of grants it awards to various community organizations. Schneiderman’s grant money was decreased by almost $65,000. He focused his funding on organizations that provide necessities, like the Sag Harbor Food Pantry.
“I tried to focus on groups that do relief work, so some of the historical societies and beautification groups have lost their money,” said Schneiderman on Monday. He added that these relief groups augment the strain on the county by providing services to needy members of the community.
Schneiderman also discussed with the CAC two pieces of legislation related to housing homeless sex offenders, which he is trying to pass in the county legislature.
Currently, all homeless Suffolk County sex offenders who require emergency evening housing are taken to a trailer in the parking lot of the county jail in Riverhead. Nightly, the trailer houses some 20 level II and level III sex offenders. Level III sex offenders present the highest risk and are considered the most likely to re-offend. Schneiderman has received claims from members of the Riverhead community that these sex offenders have been seen wandering throughout the town and reportedly near areas where children gather. By law, a convicted sex offender is required to stay beyond 500 feet of a school, playground or daycare center.
The first of Schneiderman’s proposed legislations would require that no more than four homeless sex offenders are housed in any given trailer without a monitoring program. If the number exceeds four, then offenders would be given a tracking device or would be chaperoned if they want to leave the premises at any point during the evening.
The second piece of legislation calls for the facility at Riverhead to house only sex offenders from the five East End towns. The other sex offenders, proposes Schneiderman, should be sent to a trailer set up at their nearest police precinct. There are seven precincts in the county, and Schneiderman noted with his legislation, there would be a total of eight trailers in the county.
Schneiderman drafted both pieces of legislation hoping that the county legislature will choose one as a solution to this situation.
“It’s not that we shouldn’t be compassionate, but you really don’t want these individuals near your children,” said Schneiderman. “Some of their victims are young children.”
The Sag Harbor CAC members agreed that the second piece of legislation was better. CAC member Eric Cohen wondered if the first piece of legislation, which is designed to hinder the movement of these sex offenders who have already completed their jail time, would present certain issues of legality.

Above: Jay Schneiderman speaks with Sag Harbor CAC member Shauna Conran on the County’s finances.