Tag Archive | "Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst"

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst Proposes $88.5 Million Budget for Southampton

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Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, pictured above, presented the Town’s Tentative 2015 Budget on Tuesday. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst presented Southampton Town’s $88.5 million proposed operating budget for 2015 on Tuesday, September 30.

“The 2015 tentative budget, and my previous four budgets, is based on the notion that sound financial footing is the bedrock upon which all town services rests,” said Ms. Throne-Holst.

“The degree and quality for which the town can provide for public safety, safe and well maintained roadways, clean and accessible beaches, parks and public spaces—and a host of other services that support and improve the quality of life for our citizens depends on our ability to provide that sound financial footing,” she continued.

“I am proposing modest increases in both the operating and capital budgets—principally in the Highway and Public Safety Funds, while proposing offsetting reductions or revenue increases in other areas,” she said.

Ms. Throne-Holst has included $695,000 in the budget in order to cover the salaries and benefits of eight new employees. The supervisor intends to hire one administrative position, an ordinance inspector, an environmental analyst, a maintenance mechanic, two police officers and two automotive equipment operators.

“In the past four years we have reduced overall staffing by about 15 percent,” the supervisor said. “However, as you all know, our town population continues to grow, and so then too, the need for services,” she continued.

The budget accounts for a 2-percent annual increases in salary and incorporates increases in employee contributions to health benefits, according to the supervisor. She added Southampton’s contracts represent “the most conservative increases in Suffolk County.”

The budget also includes funds for the town’s 375th anniversary celebrations and for a special prosecutor to focus solely on code enforcement issues.

Money has also been put aside to found a partnership with Stony Brook University in order to create a nitrogen mapping and awareness program, “as part of our overall effort to address water quality in our community and region,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

While the budget calls for an additional $3 million in spending, Ms. Throne-Holst said that steadily increasing revenues and appropriating modest amount from fund balances would offset the budget-to-budget differences and allow for no increase in the total tax levy.

“As anywhere else, our operating costs continue to rise, but fortunately our annual revenue to support the offset has grown as well,” she said. Mortgage tax revenue for 2014 is currently expected to be $1.2 million over the budgeted projection, she added.

Increased permit fees, fines and penalties have provided an increase in revenue as well, she said, as has the more aggressive prosecution of offenders. Combined, these revenues offset roughly $1.7 million of the $3 million in additional spending.

The budget as written proposes to draw the remaining $1.3 million needed to balance the budget from the town’s “very healthy fund balance.” The town’s fund balance is mandated to be 17 percent of the total operating budget; according to Ms. Throne Holst, the current balance is $29 million, which represents 32 percent of the budget.

She added, however, that she would be open to discussing the possibility of a 1.5-percent tax rate increase with the other members of the town board in the coming weeks.

“While my budget proposes a zero tax levy increase, New York State has offered municipalities incentives in the form of a rebate equal to the amount of any town tax increase up to the tax cap limit,” she said.

Governor Cuomo’s Tax Relief Rebate Program would entitle eligible taxpayers to a full rebate of their tax increase, which would translate to a zero increase to the taxpayer.

Ms. Throne-Holst proposed not to increase taxes because of how robust the fund balance is, she said, but also to not add to the tax base in future years. There is no guarantee the rebate program will continue in future years or that Southampton Town will be eligible in the future, she said.

She would be willing to consider the other option, to take advantage of the tax relief program, which could provide funding for future non-recurring projects. Ms. Throne-Holst explained the state program could fund additional necessary police and code enforcement vehicles as well as town fueling station upgrades and public safety communications equipment, all at no increased cost to the taxpayer.

“In such an option, homeowners would receive a tax rebate for the increase and the town would then benefit by not having to borrow or provide for them in future,” she explained.

“This is an option that warrants more discussion, and I look forward to evaluating the merits of utilizing this program with my colleagues as we move through the deliberative process and final budget adoption,” she said.

A series of public hearings and discussions regarding the tentative budget will take place over the next few weeks with the budget adoption slated for November 20.

Security Guard at Southampton Town Hall

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The Southampton Town Board last week announced it had hired a private security service, Summit Security Services Inc., for a guard who will stand watch during the board’s regular meetings.

“We do have a security guard with us now as is the norm at most public meetings today,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said at the board’s July 22 meeting, the first at which a guard was on duty.

The guard will also be in charge of signing in people who want to speak at public hearings, which Ms. Throne-Holst said members of the public had also requested.

Southampton Opens Satellite Office

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Southampton Town earlier this month opened a satellite Land Management office at the Hampton Bays Community Center at 25 Ponquogue Ave in Hampton Bays in an effort to provide more convenient access to residents and members of the local building trades.

The office will be open on Mondays and Tuesdays only from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Employees will be on hand to accept properly completed applications for building permits, zoning, planning and environmental matters and other services handled through the department.

“Traffic alone creates major logistical hardships for residents and visitors to the East End,” said Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst in a release.  “The satellite office will significantly reduce travel time for residents and workers who live or have job sites west of the canal.”

Southampton Town Trustees State Their Case at Public Forum

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The Southampton Town Trustees at a public forum at Hampton Bays High School on Tuesday.

By Stephen J. Kotz

The Southampton Town Trustees, who are sometimes confused with either the town board or any number of village boards, held a well-attended forum at Hampton Bays High School on Tuesday night to explain their role as the longest standing elective body in town government and outline some of the critical challenges facing them.

First and foremost among those challenges are a series of lawsuits that have been filed by property owners seeking to challenge the Trustees’ authority to regulate construction of things like revetments and retaining walls along the shoreline, maintain regulatory control over public beaches, protect the health of bays and streams, and even control their own purse strings.

As if to drive the point home that the Trustees are under siege, President Eric Shultz, who presided over the meeting, pointed out that a court reporter, seated at the front of the auditorium, was transcribing the event for plaintiffs in one of those suits.

The suits include one filed by residents of West Hampton Dunes over whether sand that has built up on the beach belongs to the homeowners or the town; a related suit by the homeowners that is seeking to take away the Trustees’ rights to control their own finances; a suit by the Trustees challenging the state Department of Environmental Conservation over revetments in Southampton Village; a suit over a Quogue resident’s placement of geotubes in front of their home without a permit; and a suit brought by Brookhaven Town baymen over fishing rights in town waters.

“Every suit is completely paid for out of Trustee money,” said Mr. Shultz. “The sale of sand out of Mecox Bay has allowed us to pursue them.”

Tuesday’s meeting was also attended by members of the town board, who sat in the front, but did not participate until pressed to do so by Bill Stubelek of Hampton Bays, who questioned whether town board members supported the Trustees in their mission.

After both Councilman Brad Bender and Councilwoman Brigid Fleming made brief comments, Supervisor Anna Throne Holst closed the meeting by reassuring the public the town board was in fact in Trustees’ corner.

“There is a recognition of a staggering amount of issues facing us with a staggering dollar amount attached to them,” said Ms. Throne-Holst. “We support the Trustees. We support the important work that needs to happen. We support the fact that one of the most important things we need to do is work together at every level of government.”

In an interview on Wednesday morning, Mr. Shultz said he was pleased by the show of support from the town board, but he added, “We’ll see it in deeds” and said the Trustees especially need the board’s support in getting the State Legislature to reaffirm their status.

Mr. Shultz said the Trustees typically send their members out in the community discuss their work with various civic groups but had decided the time was ripe to hold a more formal forum.

“The Trustees control the economic engine of this town,” he said of their authority to protect the public easement over the beaches. “There are more and more people out here who don’t know who the Trustees are. We want to educate them so when we need them to come out and support us they are up to speed.”

The crowd was largely sympathetic. “You guys are understaffed and terribly, terribly, terribly underfunded,” said Tom White, an 11th generation Southampton resident. He offered a litany of problems affecting the health of the groundwater and the bays, from leaching septic systems, to town highway department catch basins that drain harmful road runoff back into the aquifer. He added that a sharp increase in irrigation was further affecting the quality of the groundwater.

“You are doing a great job,” he concluded. “Ask us for our help and we’ll try to get you more money.”

George Lynch of Quiogue said the Trustees were in a “situation akin to war” and called for residents who were concerned about everything from beach access to preventing pollution need “to give not just our cooperation but the kind of loyalty you’d give in a war situation.”

He urged the Trustees to hold more such forums to promote their causes. “If you need the help of citizens, I believe it will be there,” he said.

Another speaker, Scott Lewis, said the town should hire a “water superintendent,” whose duties, he suggested, would be to keep the waters clean, similar to how the highway superintendent is responsible for keeping the roads clear in the winter.

On Wednesday, Mr. Shultz who had spent his morning at a meeting to discuss dredging projects with county officials and planned to spend his evening at a meeting on duck hunting regulations, said the Trustees were a decidedly grassroots form of government. “We have a lot of responsibility,” he said, “and we don’t have any staff. We do it all ourselves.”

Early in Tuesday’s forum, Mr. Schultz reviewed some of the major legal decisions that have affected the Trustees’ authority. An 1818 decision gave the proprietors, who were literally the original owners of the town, authority over common lands, and the Trustees authority over the waters. The proprietors were eventually able to claim the beaches as common land, but when they disbanded in 890 after selling off all of their assets, court ruled that the Trustees still controlled an easement over thee beaches below the high water mark, a situation that largely remains in place today.

“We’re not gunslingers. We are going after cases that are really important,” Mr. Shultz said of the Trustees’ legal battles. “But were under increased pressure and with these lawsuits, we feel we haven’t been getting coverage and people don’t know the importance of what’s at stake with their beach rights.”