By Stephen J. Kotz
After an hour and a half of wrangling over spending, the Sag Harbor Village Board Wednesday added about $11,500 to a proposed $8.58 million budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
The board expects to adopt the budget at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 14. Spending will increase about 1 percent, and the tax rate will go up about 2 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, to about $2.74.
At a sparsely attended hearing on the spending plan, Mayor Brian Gilbride announced that he had cut $40,000 earmarked for a new chief’s vehicle from the Sag Harbor Fire Department’s budget, but had added $10,000 to the line covering the length of service award program, which provides a minor pension payment to retired volunteers.
The mayor said he made the cut to make a proposed paid emergency services provider program for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps more palatable to residents who live in fire protection districts outside the village. Last week, the board agreed to add $110,000 to the budget to fund that program, which will provide an on-call EMT 12 hours a day seven days a week to provide backup for the corps’ volunteers.
Tom Gardella, the fire department’s first assistant chief, protested the mayor’s decision, saying the department had worked hard to present a budget that cut department spending by 4 percent and had provided for the funding required for the vehicle by moving funds from other lines.
“To me, if you take that vehicle out, you’re taking another $40,000 away from the fire department,” he said.
“I’m just looking at the big picture here,” replied Mr. Gilbride, noting that he was concerned about how the overall increase in spending would be viewed by residents of Noyac, Bay Point, North Haven, and a sliver of East Hampton Town who are in fire protection districts. “I tried to soften the blow the best I could.”
Other board members, who have been largely silent on the budget, then chimed in. Trustee Ken O’Donnell said he was concerned that the chief’s vehicle has more than 100,000 miles on it and said at least one police car is over that limit, with two others approaching it.
Trustee Ed Deyermond, noting that the village’s insurance company frowns on using high mileage cars for emergency services, successfully lobbied for the $30,000 to be restored and another $28,000, which had been cut at a previous budget work session, to be put back in the budget so the police department can buy a new car.
Mr. Gilbride, who said he thought both departments could get by for another year without new vehicles cast the sole dissenting vote.
Trustee Sandra Schroeder said she saw a number of items that warranted a second look, and convinced her colleagues to cut $15,000 from an allotment of $20,000 for outside engineer fees and another $4,000 from technology maintenance. The board did add back $2,500 for records management to cover the cost of additional scanning work and promised to revisit some of the other items Ms. Schroeder was concerned about before voting on the final budget.