Tag Archive | "Project MOST"

East Hampton Budget Adds More Funding for Project MOST

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On Thursday night, the East Hampton Town Board swiftly adopted its 2012 budget after increasing its contingency account by $20,000. According to town budget officer Len Bernard, that change in the spending plan was meant to increase funding to the after-school program Project MOST, although the current town board did not earmark the money specifically for the organization.

“I think that was done in an effort to give some of the new town board members some latitude in how much funding they give to Project MOST when they take office after the first of the year,” said Bernard on Monday morning. “They could actually take more out of the contingency account than $20,000 if they wanted to.”

Earlier this month, Democratic candidates Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc were elected to serve on the town board. They join Republican board members Dominick Stanzione and Theresa Quigley. The supervisor’s race between incumbent Republican Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and his challenger Zachary Cohen remains too close to call.

Parents, teachers and community members implored the town board to increase Project MOST’s funding at the town’s only public hearing on the budget on November 10.

Project MOST is a not-for-profit organization that provides after-school care and education to close to 300 students at The Springs School and in the East Hampton School District. In Supervisor Wilkinson’s preliminary budget, the town proposed to maintain its current level of funding for the organization at $10,000.

Facing an increase in the number of students, and parents, who rely on the after-school programming, as well as the fact that grant opportunities are contingent on town and school district support, the organization asked the town to increase its funding to $60,000 annually.

After Thursday night’s adoption of the budget, it appears the organization is halfway to its goal, now expected to receive at least $30,000 in financial support from the Town of East Hampton.

The final $65,731,372 adopted budget raises spending by just over 2.5 percent, although taxes will be reduced significantly in the villages within the Town of East Hampton. Residents outside of the incorporated villages will see a less than one-percent decrease, according to Bernard.

According to Supervisor Wilkinson’s original budget message, the increase in town spending is primarily due to a rise in the cost of employee benefits and, in part, to begin paying off the $27.3 million debt left by the previous administration.

In order to cut spending, Supervisor Wilkinson said he has “restructured” town government by merging departments and streamlining them, allowing employees to serve several functions within the town. Supervisor Wilkinson has also said discontinuation of the leaf pick-up program coupled with the closing of the town’s Recycling Center on Wednesdays has resulted in $700,000 in annual savings.

The budget also includes the sale of East Hampton Town’s portion of The Poxabogue Golf Center. The board agreed to sell its portion of the golf center to Southampton Town for $2.2 million earlier this fall. In addition to that revenue, Supervisor Wilkinson said he expects the town to collect an additional $200,000 from Southampton Town for golf center revenues it is owed for the last year.

Since the budget was presented to the town board, outside of the $20,000 placed in the contingency account for Project MOST, the board also increased $35,000 for the town’s Office of Housing and Community Development funding. Director Tom Ruhle reported he expects a smaller portion of funding from Section 8 housing administrative fees in 2012 and would need more financial support to run his department.

After a computer error, Bernard said the board also added about $60,000 to the budget to cover the cost of the town’s planning board.

According to Bernard, in the villages of Sag Harbor and East Hampton, residents can expect to see a 9.17-percent decrease in their taxes. For a home with a market value of $900,000, Bernard said that would result in a $79 savings. For residents living outside the villages, Bernard said the tax decrease was “minimal” and would result in less than $1 a year in savings.

Residents Call for More Project MOST Funding in East Hampton

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As a child growing up in East Hampton, when she wasn’t playing after-school sports Christine Eberhart would go home after the school bell rang and wait a couple of hours for her parents to get home from work. That was 20 years ago, and the mother of two young children recognizes that in this day and age allowing her son and daughter to do the same thing is not a viable option.

Eberhart was one of several parents, teachers and community members who implored the East Hampton Town Board to increase funding for Project MOST during a public hearing on the town’s proposed 2012 budget.

The proposed $65.6 million budget shows a 0.2-percent tax cut for residents of the town who live outside the villages of East Hampton and Sag Harbor and a 9.4-percent reduction in taxes for town residents who reside within those villages.

While Supervisor Bill Wilkinson was able to reduce taxes, for the second year in a row, the town has seen a spending increase as the cost of employee benefits and paying off a $27.3 million deficit the town has incurred has added to the town’s non-discretionary spending needs.

Project MOST is a not-for-profit organization that provides after-school care and education to close to 300 students at The Springs School and in the East Hampton School District. While the town board has not cut Project MOST’s funding from last year — the organization is slated to receive $10,000 in the 2012-spending plan — the growth of the program and the fact that grant opportunities are contingent on town and school district support has meant the organization needs more funding if it is to survive.

The organization has asked the town board to increase its funding to $60,000 so it can continue to provide the service to the 275 students in East Hampton and Springs whose parents depend on the program, unable to get home from work until after 5 p.m.

As both a teacher and parent, on Thursday night Eberhart said she has seen the positive effects of Project MOST first hand.

“Children require a safe and productive environment to do their homework in, where they receive support, socialize and have the opportunity to experience new activities like yoga,” said Eberhart.

Springs resident and parent David Lys agreed and said his oldest daughter, a kindergartner at The Springs School, has thrived in the program.

“Project MOST allows me extra time to make that extra dollar to stay out here, and that is the goal — to stay here my whole life,” said Lys, who grew up in East Hampton.

Sag Harbor attorney Stephen Grossman, an East Hampton Town resident, echoed support for Project MOST and for the town funding social programs in general. Through a statement read by Averill Gues, Grossman was critical of the town board, which he said has budgeted $80,000 for security at the town’s justice court, but cannot find funding for children’s programming.

Grossman, who ran for town justice earlier this month, but was not elected, was also critical of the town justice’s salaries and called on an audit to show how much actual time each justice spends on the bench each month. The two town justices each receive a $70,346.46 salary.

Springs School Superintendent Michael Hartner added that Project MOST is not just an after-school homework club, but a program that provides enrichment.

He added that Project MOST can only receive grants equal to the financial support given to the organization by the town and school districts.

Teacher Dan Hartnett, a former Sag Harbor School Board member, said imagining John M. Marshall Elementary School without Project MOST is difficult at best.

“Project MOST is more than just babysitting,” said Hartnett. “It provides academic enrichment and support, as well as recreation for children who in the age of testing have had a long, stressful day.”

“For me, the question is where are the priorities of the town,” he said. “What better program could you fund as affordably?”

Sylvia Overby, who was elected to the town board last week alongside her Democratic Party running mate Peter Van Scoyoc, said she would like to see funding increased for the program as well.

“This is the time to grab them and this is the time to make sure they become the good citizens we need in East Hampton and have in East Hampton,” she said.

Overby said she was concerned that the town has not budgeted any monies to run the Scavenger Waste Facility in Springs — a $1.2 million department, Overby said was essentially deleted from the budget.

Since last Spring, the town board has been talking about leasing the facility to a private operator to run, rather than having the plant run by the town.

“We actually don’t know what we are doing yet,” said Deputy Supervisor Theresa Quigley.

“Why would we delete it from the budget if we don’t know what we are doing yet,” asked a puzzled Overby, who said she was concerned without any monies outside of $57,000 that budget officer Len Bernard said was budgeted to transition the facility into private operation.

On Tuesday, during the town board work session, the board passed a resolution allowing the town to request proposals for private companies looking to operate the facility.

Last Thursday, Overby also asked the board to consider hiring part time employees for the town’s planning department, noting it would give the town expert opinions without the cost of health insurance.

Supervisor Wilkinson noted that the reason positions have not been re-hired within the town once people resigned was an effort to reduce the size of town government without having to resort to layoffs in the future.

The town board is expected to consider adopting the proposed 2012 budget at tonight’s town board meeting at 7 p.m. in town hall.

East Hampton Adopts $71.7 Million Spending Plan

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The East Hampton Town Board of Trustees adopted its 2010 budget on Friday, November 20 with very few changes made to the spending plan since it was formerly introduced earlier this fall.

The $71.7 million budget has been pared down from the original $72.1 million spending plan submitted by former town Supervisor Bill McGintee just before his resignation in October. The budget will increase taxes by 10.7 percent for residents of the town who do not live in the village with village residents looking at an almost 9 percent tax increase.

Last year, town residents had to swallow a 23 percent tax increase with village residents having their taxes raised 39 percent.

The incoming Republican majority – Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and new town board members Theresa Quigley and Dominick Stanzione – promised during their successful election campaign they plan to spend roughly $10 million less than the current budget calls for. They will join existing board members Julia Prince and deputy-supervisor Pete Hammerle in January.

A majority of the increases projected in the now-adopted budget will cover the cost of debt service on a state backed $15 million in deficit financing to cover rising deficits over the last two years. The total town deficit is predicted to be above $20 million by the close of this fiscal year.

In the last two weeks, minor changes have been made to the budget, including the addition of funding for Project MOST, the East Hampton Day Care and the East End Special Players. All three not for profits lobbied the board to continue their funding at the first budget hearing in the beginning of November and after learning the town would receive approximately $100,000 more than expected in sales tax revenue from the county, board members decided to add the funding back into the budget. Project MOST will receive $15,000, the East Hampton Day Care will get an additional $25,000 in town funding and East End Special Players is slated to receive $10,000 to continue their Saturday afternoon programming in Bridgehampton.