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Oct 13, 2008 12:21 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board at work on budget

Oct 13, 2008 12:21 PM

Staying Within Cap

In the meantime, the supervisor is proposing the use of $4.5 million of accumulated surplus funds from previous budgets to cover increases in spending enough to keep the tax rate increase within the mandated 5-percent cap. Ms. Wright would not say how much of the overall surplus would be left over, adding that coming up with an accurate figure before the end of the year is problematic.

This is due, she said, to the October 1 deadline for filing the budget and the seasonal nature of the town’s economy. “You don’t know where you are until the season ends,” Ms. Wright said. “There’s overtime for police to cover all the special events, there’s beach permit revenue, and all that information comes in after September.”

Ms. Wright said she asked Town Attorney Dan Adams to look into extensions for filing the budget and noted that Westchester and Monroe counties allow for extra time.

Ms. Kabot proposed a 2.5-percent “cost-of-living” salary increase for non-union town employees and elected officials in her initial draft 2009 budget. At the suggestion of Ms. Throne-Holst, the salaries of the town’s elected officials—including the supervisor, the Town Board members, the Trustees, the town clerk, and highway superintendent—have been frozen, a move that saves taxpayers $18,000.

Town Board members receive a salary of $60,000; the 2.5-percent increase would have meant an additional $1,500. “I certainly could use the extra money, but, in this economy, I just don’t think it was right to ask the taxpayers for it,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

As supervisor, Ms. Kabot is paid $102,000 a year, the same annual salary earned by Highway Superintendent Bill Masterson. Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer is paid $97,000.

Police Deficit

The town is looking to shrink the deficit in Waste Management, but there’s a $4.5 million hole in the Police Fund that needs to be plugged as well.

The 10 new police officers, hired two weeks ago, bring the total number of police personnel to 105, three above Ms. Kabot’s budgeted 102. The 10 new hires will be offset by three upcoming retirements, which will reduce the number of personnel to 102.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Southampton Town Police Chief James Overton told the Town Board that he wants an additional seven officers, which would increase the size of the force to 109. The chief is also asking for two additional vehicles, at a cost of $68,000, plus $108,000 in new equipment.

To service the vehicles already in operation, Chief Overton said he needed an additional mechanic. Currently, four mechanics are budgeted, but Ms. Kabot said she was open to a suggestion by Ms. Throne-Holst to outsource any vehicle maintenance that the town garage could not handle.

Ms. Kabot said she was also looking to shift to a townwide “street lighting district” to more fairly spread out those payments. The way the system is currently set up, according to the supervisor, Flanders, East Quogue, and Hampton Bays are paying for the majority of the town’s street lights. “That’s an inequity that needs to be fixed,” Ms. Kabot said.

In-House Work

Many of the department heads, including Town Attorney Dan Adams and Town Planning and Development Administrator Jefferson Murphree, said they are doing more work “in-house” in order to save taxpayer dollars by not hiring outside consultants.

Mr. Murphree, who wanted to hire a “chief planner” to enhance his department’s ability to do more of its own work, said “90 percent” of the work done on the Environmental Impact Study for the Hampton Bays moratorium was done inside his department. “That saved the taxpayers $77,000,” Mr. Murphree said. He added that work on the 72-H program—properties allocated to the town by Suffolk County for affordable housing—was done in-house, as well as work on the ongoing Sag Harbor Gateway Study.

Mr. Adams hoped to convert a part-time attorney position to full-time to handle more work within his office, but said he understood the constraints of the budget. Mr. Adams also wants to have a full-time stenographer by 2010—a position, he said, that would help accommodate a greater in-house workload and save taxpayers dollars in legal expenses. “There’s always the reality of unforeseen legal fees,” Mr. Adams said.

The town clerk, who has been working to digitally transcribe and archive the voluminous town maps and records in her office, withdrew a request for an additional full-time staffer. Ms. Schermeyer said a full-time archivist would “increase efficiency” and aid in the mammoth task of saving the town’s records. “This is important work for the town,” she said. “But, in light of the economy, I’m going to defer that request for a year.”

Town Tax Assessor Ed Deyermond asked Ms. Kabot to raise the salaries of two assessors in his office, a request that Mr. Blowes supported. But the supervisor said she wasn’t prepared to do that at this time. Mr. Blowes said that personnel who reached a “certain level of performance” should be recognized with a bump in pay.

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