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Sep 16, 2015 10:31 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Supervisor Unveils $91.1 Million Spending Proposal During Quogue Meeting

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst addresses Quogue Village. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Sep 16, 2015 12:04 PM

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst chose an unusual venue to unveil key aspects of her preliminary $91.1 million municipal spending plan for next year.

While giving her annual village address in Quogue on Saturday morning, Ms. Throne-Holst shared with the estimated 40 people in attendance both the total amount of her spending plan—which still must be vetted by her fellow Town Board members and, as of last weekend, had not yet been shared with them—and the fact that her proposal would hold the line on taxes next year.

“The tax rate will not rise in this budget,” Ms. Throne-Holst said while addressing Quogue residents. “There are very, very few towns that can say that today.”

If adopted, the supervisor’s budget would increase overall spending by approximately $2.5 million, a 2.82-percent increase, next fiscal year. The board approved this year’s $88.6 million operating budget last November by a 3-2 margin, following some retooling in the final hours, in which more than $1 million in spending had to be reworked to accommodate a number of new hires and road improvement projects.

During Saturday’s speech in Quogue, the supervisor also said that the proposed budget will not pierce the state-mandated cap on taxes.

When approached after giving her 90-minute-plus-long speech, Ms. Throne-Holst declined to give any specific details or answer any questions about her proposed budget. “I already said more than some of my colleagues know,” she said. “I’m presenting the budget to the Town Board on September 24.”

When reached earlier this week, Southampton Town Comptroller Len Marchese, who drafts the budget under Ms. Throne-Holst’s direction, also declined to reveal specifics of the spending plan—including any projected increases or cuts—until after the supervisor’s scheduled presentation at Town Hall later this month. But he did note that the current tax rate of $1.42 per 1,000 of assessed evaluation is expected to hold. That means a homeowner’s tax bill would not change next year if its assessment is the same.

“Our goal was to always stay under that,” Ms. Throne-Holst said during Saturday’s meeting. “[And] never to pierce the tax cap. We believe that fiscal constraint and discipline is important to protect our taxpayers … so the actual tax rate will not raise as I’m proposing it.”

When also reached earlier this week, Town Councilwomen Bridget Fleming and Christine Scalera both said they have not seen the proposed budget, but are expecting copies of it next week when it is made available to the public.

For Ms. Scalera, who voted against the current year’s spending plan after several unexplained last-minute additions were made, she said she will be looking for more clarity before she casts a yes vote. Specifically, she said, she will be looking at salary increases throughout the town’s roster.

“I want to look at the plan,” Ms. Scalera said. “Last year I was still not getting complete information on what some of the salary increases were based on. I wasn’t sure if there was a salary matrix that was discussed or not, and I don’t know if what was used would go into 2016. There are a number of things I will be looking for clarity on this year.”

Ms. Fleming said she did not want to speculate on any aspects of the supervisor’s budget, adding that she is confident that it will be fiscally responsible.

“We are awaiting Anna’s proposed budget, which we should be getting any day now,” Ms. Fleming said. “We have just, as a Town Board, done a really strong job in continuing to bring the town forward toward fiscal good health, so obviously the budget process is a question of priorities. But unlike other municipalities, we are in a very good position because of our surpluses and our careful budgeting up to this point.”

Though he has not yet seen her proposal, Town Councilman Brad Bender said Wednesday morning that he has discussed it with Ms. Throne-Holst and thinks it mirrors this year’s spending plan. Personally, he said he hopes the budget includes money for new equipment, technology and training for the Southampton Town Police Department, and enough funding to make the part-time affirmative action officer a full-time position.

Mr. Bender also said he wants to make sure the budget process goes as smoothly as possible this year, saying that last-minute additions and resolutions will not fly.

“Last-minute resolutions I have not been able to review will not be entertained,” he said. “If you can’t take the time out on a resolution that you want to bring on to be discussed first and see if I am on board, then the resolution will be a no. I am not playing that game on the budget.”

Town Councilman Stan Glinka was not available for comment this week.

On Saturday, Ms. Throne-Holst would share only minor details, such as noting that some $59 million in property taxes would be levied by the town under her proposal. This week, she reaffirmed that the budget will be presented next week and that she would reveal all of the details at that time.

Earlier this month, the board adopted a formal budget calendar, which states that the plan can be presented no later than Wednesday, September 30. The town operating budget can be adopted no later than November 20.

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What's the Town doing to lower taxes in Eastport?
By Mouthampton (419), Southampton on Sep 16, 15 11:42 AM
Really. Educate yourself. Why would the town lower taxes in just one hamlet?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Sep 17, 15 6:50 PM
The Southampton side of Eastport would be included in the town's budget. Your school taxes are another entity.
By sgt202 (75), Hampton Bays on Sep 17, 15 11:10 AM
How much is wasted on Kratovilles salary? And how much for Chief "Andy of Mayberry" Pierce? $300,000? $400,000? What a waste. How many highway workers could that $$ pay for?!
By PoliticallyIncorrect (45), earth on Sep 19, 15 6:44 PM