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UPDATE: Southampton Town Board Adopts $81 Million Budget

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Michael Wright   Nov 20, 2013 11:26 AM
Nov 20, 2013 3:42 PM

UPDATE: 2 p.m.

The budget was unanimously approved by the Town Board just before 2 p.m.

The measures supporting the raising of Dune Road in Quogue and the Water Quality Protection Fund were defeated.

Original story:

The Southampton Town Board was set to approve an operating budget for 2014 of approximately $81 million at a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, November 20, specially scheduled to meet state-imposed filing deadlines.

Despite several hundred thousand dollars in additional spending and the addition of two administrative positions, all expected to be added to the budget before its adoption on Wednesday, the spending plan will still result in no tax increase for town residents in 2014, thanks to climbing revenue estimates.

In a series of last-minute amendments to Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s tentative budget the board was to consider on Wednesday, the board proposed the addition of two new full-time positions in Town Hall, as well as an expansion of the town’s Water Quality Protection Fund. Another proposal would add $2 million to the capital borrowing plan to fund the start of a project to raise Dune Road in Hampton Bays and East Quogue should federal funding, expected for the project as part of the Superstorm Sandy recovery and mitigation effort, fall through.

If the amendments proposed on Wednesday are approved, the town would create two new positions: a building and zoning permits examiner to help speed up the application and filing of building permits, and an environmental facilities manager to oversee the town’s waste management division. The permits examiner position will carry a $50,571 starting base salary and $35,494 in administrator-level annual retirement and health benefits. The environmental facilities manager would earn a $55,000 starting salary and $32,236 in annual benefits. Both positions are expected to ultimately pay for themselves through increased revenues and lowered costs thanks to improved efficiency from having dedicated managers.

The town also created a new special events fund, allowing the costs of overtime salaries for police department and Highway Department staff for special events to be included in the full-town tax levy, rather than just the part-town levy.

Not all of the last-chance amendments proposed to the budget were universally supported by the board. Chris Nuzzi’s proposal to add to the town’s capital borrowing to fund the start of the Dune Road work and Bridget Fleming’s proposal to dedicate nearly $1 million of anticipated town surplus to the Water Quality Protection Fund were both met with some hesitation by board members and could face a battle.

“We had committed to continuing our capped borrowing plan, which is critical to our bond rating, so I don’t think it would be prudent for us at this point,” Ms. Throne-Holst said of the additional capital borrowing for the Dune Road project, adding the concern that scheduling the borrowing could jeopardize the likelihood that the town will receive federal money for the Dune Road project by signaling that the town is willing to borrow the money itself for the work. “We’re right on the eve of finding out what the feds are going to be willing to fund. We’ll either get the funding or we won’t, or we’ll get some part of it and we can move forward from there. This money is not enough to complete the project, not even half, and it blows our capital budget.”

Ms. Throne-Holst’s initial capital budget proposal totaled just $3 million and already included $975,000 for the Dune Road work.

Ms. Fleming’s proposal to substantially fund the Water Quality Protection Fund drew criticism from both sides of the aisle as well, despite resounding support for the mission it represents. Christine Scalera, who authored the founding legislation for the fund, said that she did not see dedicating as much as $1 million in taxpayer money to the fund as a wise move at this point and would prefer to see smaller, incremental steps taken to dedicating funding from a variety of sources.

“This was never meant to be taxpayer-funded,” Ms. Scalera said of the fund. “This is something that has to be tackled on a regional level, in a lot of areas.”

Last week, at Ms. Scalera’s suggestion, the board approved the dedication of $100,000 to the Septic Rebate Incentive Program, the well-received seminal program of the Water Quality Protection Fund, which offers assistance to residents in upgrading aging or failing septic systems at homes near the water. The money will pay for up to 60 percent of the cost of installing more modern septic systems in houses built before the 1980 in watersheds of local bays and creeks. The councilwoman also said that she is going to be introducing legislation soon that would direct revenues from various fines and surcharges for environmental hazards into the fund.

Also in the amendments to the budget, which were revealed last week, Town Assessor Lisa Goree was proposed to get an $11,000 salary hike.

Despite the addition of more than $300,000 in additional spending through amendments to the budget, the adopted spending plan was expected to maintain a flat tax rate for town residents through adjustments in forecast revenues, primarily from county mortgage taxes receipts.

“We were super-, ultra-conservative with our estimates in the initial plan,” Comptroller Len Marchese said of the initial budget’s mortgage tax income estimates, which provide income based on new mortgages written for properties in the town. “We’ve got another month under our belts since the first estimate came out—we’ve experienced another month of large percentage growth, and we also know there is a large backlog of county deed filings.”

The budget expected to be adopted on Wednesday called for an additional $292,799 in mortgage tax income in 2014, enough to cover the costs of additional salaries and increases in the budget.

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How many new septic systems will $100,000 fund, paying 60% of each? Eight, maybe nine? And how many homes with old systems are there near bays or creeks? Christine Scalera's approach is laughable, a band-aid solution to an urgent problem that threatens to destroy our town's environment and the economy that depends on it.

Ms. Scalera got the concept right, a Water Quality Protection Fund to begin addressing our number-one danger, but she misses the mark completely on execution. Even Bridget ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1052), Quiogue on Nov 21, 13 11:10 AM
Scalera's approach is spot on. Proving again fiscally sound and measured and demonstrates the depth of knowledge for the subject and for what has and continues to transpire at different levels of government that Flemming will clearly never grasp. All your Bridget has done is demonstrate once again there isn't a dollar she won't spend, idea she won't attempt to co-opt and a complete lack of knowledge of anything beyond superficial sound bites. George- is there anything Bridget "a day late but never ...more
By Beach town (7), Southampton on Nov 21, 13 6:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
TB you are a typical democrat spending money we don't have. We have a surplus due to the fact there are a lot of transfer taxes coming in. Eventually this will end and Southampton Town will be out of money yet again. The town needs to apply for grants if they want to change cesspools. The town has no business giving private homeowners money for septic systems.Bridget Fleming hasn't done one useful things since she has been in office. She is just another frustrated lawyer who goes on the Town Board ...more
By chief1 (1197), southampton on Nov 22, 13 7:34 AM
Talk to me, Beach Town and chief, when you're swimming in excrement. We may not be that far from it.

Things wouldn't be so bad if successive Republican-dominated land use boards hadn't rubber-stamped every shortsighted waterfront development project that came along, but they did, creating intolerable density near our waters, with the consequent nitrogen overload. (Good reason why the Town Board should pass another Fleming initiative, the removal of political committee members from our ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1052), Quiogue on Nov 22, 13 11:08 AM
So what about ATH's plan to allow Rechler to dump 40 condos (10 units/acre) on the freaking canal? Oh, but it's only the Republicans... and I'm sure no democratic developer/spec builder/corporation participated in any waterfront development.

Here's your problem TB - you see everything in BLACK (republicans) and WHITE (dems). You need to start seeing the whole spectrum...
By Nature (2481), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 13 11:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
Of course, TB that doesn't apply to YOUR waterfront home, does it? And blame the town GOP for regulations that the Suffolk County Dept of Health enforces as well, makes sense.
Now please, talk to us about "every short sighted waterfront development project" Which ones are you speaking of?
Now, if you would, please, in your best "the sky is falling and its the Republicans fault" style of writing, tell us why the town should subsidize the replacement of septic systems. Why not enact a law ...more
By But I'm a blank! (693), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 13 12:04 PM
She is just another frustrated lawyer who goes on the Town Board making believe they know everything about anything

Remind YOU of anyone, Chief?
By But I'm a blank! (693), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 13 12:05 PM
There has been a dwelling on my property for over a hundred years, so it's not any part of the rash of building that's taken place over the last several decades, all GOP-approved, and that's what I'm talking about. So to answer your question, no, it doesn't apply to my place.

Another way in which it doesn't apply to my place is that we replaced, upgraded and raised the septic system when we renovated. It was expensive and there was no government subsidy, but that was a condition of getting ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1052), Quiogue on Nov 22, 13 2:27 PM
We can do this till the cows come home, TB.

Just what "short sighted waterfront development" allowed by the evil Republicans are you talking about? You were unable to document them on the other thread, so I'll give you yet another bite at the apple here.

I know they must be evil, because for the last 30 years or so, every Democrat with a bag of money has been coming here from NYC to enjoy the very things that the Republicans have done to the environment.

So far as subsidizing ...more
By But I'm a blank! (693), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 13 2:39 PM
Way to ignore my talking points Gobbler - when will you start seeing the rainbow?

TB talks like the classic old Southampton Guard: It's ok for *ME* to have a waterfront house, but no one else should be able to have it. *MY* waterfront house doesn't pollute the bay, everyone ELSE's house does.

I've heard it a hundred times... "why are they cutting down trees for new houses?" Oh, so it was OK for someone to cut down trees for your house?

TB - the home on your property is ...more
By Nature (2481), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 13 2:40 PM
Hey turkey, after reading your last post above I think we all feel like we are swimming in it now! Flemming hasn't had a single initiative ( you do know what the word initiative means) save a failed farmers market it's to bad your my myopic view has rendered your post as not creditable- IMO. All we hear gobble,gobble, gobble....
By Beach town (7), Southampton on Nov 23, 13 8:52 AM
Hey turkey, after reading your last post above I think we all feel like we are swimming in it now! Flemming hasn't had a single initiative ( you do know what the word initiative means) save a failed farmers market it's to bad your my myopic view has rendered your post as not creditable- IMO. All we hear gobble,gobble, gobble
By Beach town (7), Southampton on Nov 23, 13 8:54 AM
Well said!
By bobypines (7), southampton on Nov 21, 13 3:34 PM
Blank TB will give you the answer of short sighted waterfront development after he tells us what rubber stamped projects the planning board approved. If TB is so worried about pollution to our waterways he should rip out his septic system. I have news for him if he lives by the water the septic is still running into the bay. It might take a little longer since he raised his system but it is still going in the bay..Why are rules being made for the rest of us and you seem to exclude yourself TB?
By chief1 (1197), southampton on Nov 23, 13 12:48 PM
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