Town supervisors begin to unveil 2014 budgets

Look at these surfers having a good time at Ponquogue Beach yesterday while you contemplate next year's taxes
Look at these surfers having a good time at Ponquogue Beach Monday while you contemplate next year’s taxes.

While the federal government was busy shutting down yesterday, town supervisors on the East End were hurriedly putting the finishing touches on their proposed 2014 town budgets, which were due at the close of September.

Each town board will be holding public hearings and work sessions on the budget between now and November in order to adopt final budgets by New York State’s Nov. 20 deadline.

East Hampton Town

East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson is proposing a $69.96 million budget for 2014, an increase of 1.28 percent over this year. The tax rate would increase 2.76 percent for residents outside of incorporated villages to $28.68 per $100 of assessed value, and would increase 1.8 percent to $11.16 per $100 of assessed value for residents who live inside incorporated villages, if Mr. Wilkinson’s budget is adopted.

In his budget statement, Mr. Wilkinson was quick to point out that his proposed budget is still lower than the $71.7 million budget he inherited when he took office four years ago in the midst of a massive fiscal crisis during which the town was facing a $27 million deficit. Mr. Wilkinson, a former Disney executive who had initially said he only wanted to serve one term, is not seeking re-election this year after his second term in office.

“We believe our plan is a model that has allowed us to budget for 2014 without having to implement any further staff cuts or abolishment of services like we continue to see occurring in other towns and counties,” Mr. Wilkinson wrote. “Our decisions are not always popular and many of these decisions are met with opposition and ridicule from certain segments of the local population, but these are the difficult decisions made early on to deal with the specific crisis we inherited in our town…. East Hampton is in a much better position to face the future financialy than it would have been if the tough decisions were not made early and decisively.”

East Hampton’s budget is available online here.

Southampton Town

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst is proposing a $80.74 million budget, up 3.82 percent over last year, with a zero percent tax levy increase, totaling $56.48 million.

The proposed budget includes an appropriation of $1.73 million from the town’s $23.1 million fund balance. Ms. Throne-Holst said the town finished the 2012 fiscal year with a $3.9 million surplus.

If Ms. Throne-Holst’s budget is approved, residents will pay approximately $.3985 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $239.10 in town taxes for a property valued at $600,000.

“After navigating the worst economic downturn experienced in decades, weathering three major storms in Irene, Sandy and Nemo, and working to correct years of fiscal mismanagement, I am extremely proud to say the town’s financial health has been restored, and to offer residents a fourth consecutive budget that is responsible, intelligent, and holds the line on town taxes,” said Ms. Throne-Holst in an Oct. 1 message to constituents.

Ms. Throne-Holst said in her budget message that the town’s staffing level is at its lowest since 2002, due to department reorganizations, a hiring freeze and an early retirement incentive. She also said the town’s borrowing has decreased 30 percent since she took office in 2010. The budget also includes a 2 percent salary increases for all union and non-union administrative employees, except for elected officials and members of appointed boards.

Detailed proposed Southampton Town budget breakdowns are available here.

Riverhead Town

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter has proposed a $54.56 million budget — which includes the town’s general fund, highway fund and street lighting district — for 2014, with $3.68 million of next year’s proposed revenue in those funds to be appropriated from the town’s dwindling fund balance.  If his budget is approved, the tax levy will be $39.91 million, a 2.49 percent increase over last year.

If Mr. Walter’s budget is approved as-is, the tax rate will increase by 2.17 percent, from $47.712 per $1,000 of assessed value to $48.745 per $1,000 of assessed value. Unlike Southampton, which reassesses properties at their full current value each year, Riverhead does not assess properties at their full value, which is why the discrepancy between the tax rates in each town is so high.

When all special taxing districts included — including the Community Preservation Fund, ambulance and sewer and garbage disposal districts, Riverhead’s total budget is $91.95 million. The tax levy for garbage pickup, a hefty chunk of Riverhead residents’ tax bills, would increase by 4.70 percent under Mr. Walter’s proposed budget. The tax levy for the Riverhead sewer district would increase 2.38 percent and the levy for the Calverton sewer district would increase 3.03 percent.

Mr. Walter’s budget  is available online here.

Southold Town

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell’s $41.59 million proposed 2014 budget is an increase of 1.03 percent over this year’s budget, said the supervisor in his budget statement here. If his budget is adopted, taxes in Southold will increase 1.17 percent. The supervisor’s budget includes an appropriation of $2.4 million from the town’s fund balance, down from$2.77 million this year. Mr. Russell said his budget proposal still “exceeds town board adopted policy of maintaining a fund balance greater than 10 percent of the general fund appropriations.”

The budget also includes $75,000 for deer eradication programs.

“The preparation of the budget for 2014 presents challenges that were no different than years past,” Mr. Russell wrote in his budget statement. “Revenue from all sources continues to decline. Assessed values have also declined. Further, the costs of operating this town continue to increase…. However, I firmly believe that these challenges can be met and will be met.”


Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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