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Nov 13, 2012 4:51 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town Receives Feedback On 2013 Budget From State Comptroller

Nov 13, 2012 5:13 PM

The New York State Comptroller’s office has weighed in on East Hampton Town’s 2013 tentative budget, calling the spending plan’s projected revenues and expenses “reasonable,” according to a municipal audit released by the agency on November 9.

The report by the New York State Comptroller’s office also evaluated whether East Hampton Town took the state agency’s advice during the 2012 budget season on various recommendations it issued on November 8, 2011. Those recommendations focused on the town’s contingency appropriations, Cablevision franchise fees, sale of property and appropriation of debt reserves.

The comptroller’s office also noted that East Hampton Town’s 2013 tentative budget complies with the New York State tax levy limits.

In its November 2011 recommendations, the New York State Comptroller’s office pointed out that the town couldn’t provide documentation to show that $250,000 in real property sales would be realized in 2012, but the town retained it in its 2012 budget anyway.

“As of September 2012, the town’s 2012 year-to-date and projected revenues for the sale of real property totaled $40,000, resulting in an expected revenue shortfall of $210,000 in the 2012 fiscal year,” the comptroller’s report states.

Also, the report noted that the 2012 tentative budget accounted for $260,000 in revenue in the town’s debt reserve—$170,000 of which would be a portion of the proceeds from the town’s sale of its interests in the Poxabogue Golf Center to Southampton Town.

“Since the town’s general fund debt reserve had a balance of only $182,000, we cautioned town officials that if the [New York] State Legislature did not approve the contract of sale, the town would be appropriating reserved fund balance that it did not have and it could experience an additional revenue shortfall in 2013 of $170,000,” the comptroller’s report states.

The agency also referred to recommendations it made in 2011 about contingency appropriations and Cablevision franchise fees the town receives. It noted that the town took the state’s advice in increasing its original 2012 contingency appropriation by $30,000, from $530,000 to $560,000. The audit at the time also recommended the town review the “reasonableness” of its estimated Cablevision franchise fees of $850,000 and “determine if it was realistic and attainable in 2012.”

“The Board did not adjust this estimate,” the report stated. “Although the town has collected only $461,893 as of September 2012, the trend shows that a large portion of Cablevision franchise fees are received in the later months of the years.”

The Poxabogue Golf Center sale has one more approval needed by the state, as the town already has a sales contract drawn up, according to Town Budget Officer Len Bernard. Overall, he praised the audit findings in an email last week.

“I believe the comptroller’s review shows that all of our revenue and expenditure estimates were prudent and ‘reasonable,’ as stated on page 2 of the letter,” Mr. Bernard said. “Also, the fact there are no new comments for the town to respond to for 2013 and the only mention of 2013 is to point out the impact of not selling the Poxabogue Golf Course might have, illustrates the supervisor’s budget was well structured and carefully thought out. Having the comptroller thoroughly review the tentative budget in detail over several weeks then agree with how it was constructed and formulated is very gratifying for everyone who worked on it under the supervisor’s direction.”

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