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Jul 28, 2009 6:35 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton reassessment bill fails

Jul 28, 2009 6:35 PM

A measure to authorize a $3.1 million bond to pay for East Hampton Town’s first reassessment failed to pass muster on July 23, after Town Board members Pat Mansir and Julia Prince voted against it.

The plan to reassess East Hampton would have begun with a $100,000 feasibility study to be conducted this year. The actual reassessment work, at a cost of $1 million a year, would be done over the next three years.

Proponents of the plan say that they believe reassessment will help lower income property owners by redistributing the tax burden toward higher-end properties, but Ms. Mansir said that she was worried about the potential problems it would create for senior citizens.

Ms. Prince and Town Supervisor Bill McGintee said that they planned to meet on Wednesday, July 29, to discuss the possibility of rewording the proposal to gain her support.

“I believe it’s something that’s necessary,” said Mr. McGintee. “There’s a basic imbalance.”

Mr. McGintee said that he wasn’t sure if a new bond proposal would be limited to a feasibility study, but Ms. Prince said that she would not support bonding for the entire reassessment at this time.

“I don’t care if he brings it back to the floor, but if he brings it back it can’t cost $3.1 million,” she said. “I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with the study.”

The bond authorization was one of 24 capital projects that were put up for a vote after the Town Board adopted its $3.9 million 2009 capital budget earlier that evening. Ms. Prince voted for the capital budget, but voted against authorizing the money for seven individual projects. The capital budget passed unanimously.

“It’s not per se that I’m against reassessment,” she said. “Is this the year we need to do it? The authorization said it will cost $3.1 million, but how do we know it will cost $3 million without doing the study?”

“Reassessment is probably going to be one of the hardest decisions I make politically,” she said, adding that she didn’t want to make that decision without a thorough study. Supervisor McGintee and Town Board members Brad Loewen and Pete Hammerle voted for the measure. Mr. McGintee and Mr. Loewen are leaving office at the end of this year. The bond authorization required four votes to pass.

The candidates for town supervisor also said that they didn’t think now was the right time for reassessment.

“We can address it in the early part of next year,” said Democratic Supervisor candidate Ben Zwirn. “It’s something that should be explained carefully. I don’t want anyone to get sticker shock, like happened in Southampton.”

He added that he was very concerned that senior citizens, whose income has not kept pace with the increasing value of their homes, would not be able to afford higher property taxes and would likely bear the brunt of a reassessment. He added that a computer model study should help the town gain a better grasp of whose properties would be hurt the most by reassessment.

Republican Supervisor candidate Bill Wilkinson said that the $3.1 million for reassessment was a staggering amount of money, nearly as much as the $3.9 million allocated in the capital budget for every other project combined. He added that he was shocked when he saw that the town was authorizing a bond that would cover the project for a total of four years, not just for the initial $100,000 study.

“We don’t have the money and we shouldn’t have approved it,” he said. “It’s no different than if you said ‘we had a bad year. We can’t buy a new television.’”

Ms. Prince also voted against more than $1.6 million in other projects in the capital budget, including $857,000 to cover the cost overruns of the controversial historic Town Hall project. She cast the sole vote against a $350,000 generator for the Montauk Playhouse and voted against $300,000 for upgrades to the parking lot at the Town Justice Court, $85,000 for a van for human services, $24,000 for the Baker Barn and $34,500 for an HVAC system for the town’s new Land Management headquarters in the Selah Lester House on North Main Street.

Ms. Prince said that the generator, which is necessary because the playhouse is a hurricane shelter, can wait until next year, in part because hurricane season this year is already halfway over. She had harsh words for the Justice Court and Town Hall projects and added that she “hated” the Selah Lester project, which has been the subject of much scrutiny due to questions of whether Community Preservation Fund money was used appropriately to purchase and restore the house.

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Personally, I like her style.

The situation, not just here but worldwide, is out of control. Estimation of self worth and entitlement has reached an unsustainable high.

All the money addicts, it's time recover from the DTs, and started building an infrastructure that actually works, as well as being equitable and sustainable.

By Mr. Z (9930), North Sea on Aug 3, 09 7:47 PM
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