By Mara Certic
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell’s $71.5 million budget has seen some changes to both its revenue and expenditure sides since it was first presented in September, but will remain well below the state-mandated 2-percent tax cap.
East Hampton Town Budget Officer Len Bernard presented some of those changes at a board meeting on Thursday, November 6.
Mr. Bernard explained certain adjustments had been made since the tentative budget was released in September. In the budget, the town had anticipated $50,000 in revenue from a proposed rental registry law, Mr. Bernard said, which was removed after residents came out in opposition to the law at a public hearing last month.
In its place, Mr. Bernard added $80,900 for lease options the town is entering into with a solar company, he said. “This revenue source may become a recurring revenue source depending on what is discovered during that lease option period, in terms of whether or not the solar energy production is feasible on the sites they’re going to be testing,” Mr. Bernard said.
Mr. Bernard added he had $104,900 for additional public safety into the revenue side of the budget. Mr. Bernard said Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman told him he was “99 percent sure” the town would end up receiving a greater share of sales tax revenue to be used for public safety. This agreement, Mr. Bernard explained, was established as a way to reimburse East End communities that have their own police forces and do not use the Suffolk County Police.
On the expense side, approximately $70,000 was added for police funding, $10,000 for the fisheries committee, $2,500 for the cemeteries fund and $20,000 for a part-time youth coordinator, he said.
The town has budgeted to close its scavenger waste facility, which will save the town $450,000 between 2014 and 2015.
“It really doesn’t affect revenues, other than the fact that there will be no revenue other than tax revenue for that district. There are going to be no fees because the place is going to be closed,” Mr. Bernard said.
“We’re not realizing any kind of increase in fees, we’re actually realizing a substantial drop is costs that will be going down over time until eventually the place is fully shut down and all of the old debt is paid off,” he said. Mr. Bernard added that the current budget will be $315,000 below the state tax cap, which can be applied to next year’s budget.
Tom Knobel, chairman of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, spoke up during Thursday’s public hearing and said he found some flaws on the revenue side of the budget.
“I believe there are a couple of flaws. I believe you are aiming to a more fee-based budgeting for the town and fees can be punitive,” he said.
Mr. Knobel also expressed concern that the town had anticipated a revenue increase of 18.3 percent, when there has been talk in the town of possibly limiting flights in and out of East Hampton Airport. Mr. Knobel said reducing the number of flights would “would limit the profitability of the airport.”
Other than a $10,000 line item for fisheries, Mr. Knobel said there was nothing in the budget to suggest the town was trying to attract new jobs or strive toward economic development.
Amos Goodman, of Springs, also commented about the town relying on future revenues with “where we are year to date in 2014, really being significantly less than what the previous year’s budget indicated,” he said.
“At $71.5 million, the budget’s less than it was six years ago,” Mr. Cantwell said on Thursday.
Mr. Cantwell added that the New York State comptroller announced on November 4 that after significant review, he had found East Hampton Town’s budget to have both reasonable revenue and expenditure projections.
“The state comptroller’s findings reflect the town’s goal of conservatively projecting non-tax revenue and restraining spending in order to produce a balanced budget,” Supervisor Cantwell said in a release.