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Jul 15, 2009 1:02 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board slashes $1 million from town budget

Jul 15, 2009 1:02 PM

After holding off for two weeks on approving a series of midyear budget cuts proposed by Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, the Southampton Town Board enacted the cost-saving measures on Tuesday, trimming about $1 million in spending off the 2009 budget.

In addition to the direct cuts, the board also made some bookkeeping moves, eliminating another $1 million in general fund expenses by shifting Highway Department administrative costs to the separate highway fund and moving stormwater management to the capital program. Despite the board’s action, another $1 million in spending cuts will be needed, Ms. Kabot said, in order to balance the current budget and move into the budget process for 2010.

Meanwhile, Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, one of Ms. Kabot’s rivals in the supervisor race this year, is preparing to introduce her own proposed set of budget cuts and has asked the town comptroller’s office and the Department of General Services to advise her on the viability of her proposals. She plans to outline her initiatives at a Town Board work session in a couple of weeks.

Ms. Kabot, who argued that the first round of budget cuts should have been adopted when first proposed two weeks ago, said more needs to done. “This is one small step in the right direction,” she said.

Tuesday’s cuts include the elimination of a senior kennel attendant at the animal shelter, a messenger in the town clerk’s office, and an environmental analyst and a principal planner in the Land Management Department, all currently vacant positions. Because some of those positions had been filled at various times during the year and some portion of the salaries were already paid out, the total savings will amount to $117,650, Ms. Kabot said.

The balance of the estimated $1 million in cuts came primarily from reducing the town’s allocation for payment of overtime to union employees. Ms. Kabot said the employees will be compensated for overtime hours with time off rather than additional pay, a move the supervisor said she can make under terms of the union contract. The board also curtailed some travel expenses, limiting seminars and training for town officials, and reducing office supply costs.

But Ms. Throne-Holst, who said the town is making progress in trimming the budget, argued that more sustainable cuts are needed to take the town beyond 2010. “I have had several conversations with numerous department heads and have discussed many areas of potential cost savings and revenue generating ideas,” she said.

The councilwoman has asked the comptroller and the General Services Department for an analysis of the 2009 hiring freeze to determine the potential cost savings of continuing that freeze into next year. She also requested an evaluation of the town’s part-time workforce of 125 employees, which, she said, represents more than $1 million in costs; a list of all employees eligible for retirement with full benefits, in order to weigh those costs with potential incentives for early retirement; a full review of the costs and usage of the town’s 60-plus vehicles; an assessment of payouts and holiday compensation for the Police Department; and a cost-benefit analysis of increased fines for cars seized from unlicensed drivers and fines levied on entertainment establishments deemed as repeat nuisances.

The councilwoman also wants the tax assessor’s office to look into the revenue potential of selling technological services through partnerships with other towns—for instance, teaming up with East Hampton to provide them with the town’s aerial photography and other geographical systems information capabilities.

Ms. Throne-Holst said she would also like the town to rely less on outside consultants, both in planning and legal services, and wants a comparison of using in-house staff to professionals brought in from private industry.

Two weeks ago, when the supervisor’s proposed cuts came up for a vote, Town Board members asked for another two weeks in order to get a more accurate picture of the town’s finances from Town Comptroller Tamara Wright. Ms. Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Sally Pope, who both pushed for delaying the cuts, said Tuesday they were more comfortable voting in favor of the cuts this week because the extra time gave Ms. Wright the opportunity to ensure the board that the cuts were sustainable.

“I appreciate the extra time,” Ms. Pope said. “It gave me the opportunity to consult with the various department heads and include more employees in the process.”

The cuts were needed, Ms. Kabot said, due to an unexpected decline in mortgage tax revenue, which has resulted in a $2 million budget shortfall. When she began crafting her 2009 budget, Ms. Kabot projected $7.5 million in mortgage taxes—a 30-percent decline from the $12 million generated in the past few years. But in the last six months, only $2.5 million in mortgage taxes has been collected, and now town officials forecast only another $3 million to round out the year. If that trend holds, then the town will have collected only $5.5 million in mortgage taxes for 2009, $2 million less than originally budgeted.

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Needed move; Good work Linda, and try for a furlough agreement with the unions - try to avoid layoffs - if you look around the country that is the prefered method - at least people keep their jobs.
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Jul 15, 09 2:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Good work! most of us have had to make changes in spending at home, so it's refreshing to see some positive and constructive changes being made to reduce the cost of running the Town.
By SagHarborBob (91), Sag Harbor on Jul 15, 09 3:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
If Councilwoman Throne-Holst was serious about cutting costs she should have voted yes in taking away the 24-7 vehicle for the town's chief building inspector and the person in charge of waste management. The building inspector lives in Brookhaven Town and the Waste Management person lives in Islip. As I remember the supervisor voted NO on the take home vehicles. It's the supervisor who has the town's best interest at heart.
The voters of Town should be careful come election day, vote out the ...more
Sep 24, 09 9:00 PM appended by MrRight
If Councilwoman Throne-Holst was serious about cutting costs she should have voted yes in taking away the 24-7 vehicle.
By MrRight (22), bridgehampton on Jul 15, 09 9:00 PM
Mr Right,
Kabots action on returning the town vehicle was more than disengenuous. Once she realized she had a primary on her hands she looked for any PR stunt she could pull. She drove the vehicle for 15 months before claiming it was not appropriate.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Jul 16, 09 7:40 AM
MrRight-Who made a mess of this country for the last eight years? Someone has to clean up GWB's mess.
By tenn tom (227), remsenburg on Jul 16, 09 9:44 AM
Come on, folks, let's not let MrRight distract us from the pressing local issues on the table. The present budget cuts are a good step, but the thing to remember on Election Day is that they are no more than a partial measure for cleaning up the catastrophic mess caused by Ms. Kabot and her party. Remember, too, that despite her efforts to shift blame, Ms. Kabot was in a high position of responsibility throughout this disastrous period, either as Supervisor, or as a Town Board member, or as a ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1933), Quiogue on Jul 16, 09 10:50 AM
Too little, too late-Linda's still gone in November.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jul 16, 09 11:03 AM
Get rid of a messenger, but keep Brautigan in a newly created $100,000+ job and keep Blowes to screw things up again? Not very promising.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Jul 16, 09 1:04 PM
Tenn Tom,
Eight years under Bush were very good. The stock market was up (big time) the housing market was strong. Of course the war in Iraq put us in debt but that was necessary to keep all our butts safe here in the USA. Obama keeps saying he inherited a big deficit (bull) he just keeps printing money and spending. We are in trillions of dollars of debt now. Wait until the Health Care bill passes. We will be waiting for months of see a doctor.
If you remember the Democrats had the majority ...more
By MrRight (22), bridgehampton on Jul 16, 09 2:13 PM
I guess this issue is, MrRight, that Kabot was part of the previous administration, so she help create what she's now claiming to have inherited, it doesn't float.

Furthermore, the war in Iraq has made us no safer than before it started. It's just killed a lot of people and put us in tremendous amount of debt, you Republicans just don't seem to get that.

By RealLocal (76), Bridgehampton on Jul 16, 09 2:24 PM
I know we are off the subject but I must respond to the Real Local

Hey local I guess you haven't left town in quite some time. Try driving to the site of the world trade center where more than 3500 innocent Americans were burned alive some jumping out of windows. Did you witness any of it? Did you smell the odor of dead Americans that lasted for months? War is not pretty but in my view necessary in this case. I hope none of the veterans who served or are serving our country read your blog. ...more
By MrRight (22), bridgehampton on Jul 16, 09 6:26 PM
good work
By deKooning (94), southampton on Jul 16, 09 9:25 PM
MrRight; Here I go, letting you distract me from local matters, just as I said we shouldn't, but I must address your last comment. As a Vietnam veteran and a two-buildings-away neighbor of the former World Trade Center, I'm offended by your waving of the bloody shirt, and I'm bound to tell you that at least one who wore the uniform and directly experienced the 9/11 tragedy disagrees with you entirely. I note also that your attempt to confute Kabot with Obama fails utterly, because Obama had no ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1933), Quiogue on Jul 17, 09 10:00 AM
The problem Turkey Bridge is that you, as a Vietnam Veteran have a realistic view of combat, unlike GWB and draft dodger Dick Cheney. The chicken hawks are always glad to send someone else off to war, while hiding out like cowards.

Back on point, unless we want higher taxes, and we do not, we need to cut the budget.
By CommonSense (71), Southampton on Jul 17, 09 10:34 AM
Mr Right,
No comment on Linda and her town car? And you sir, are quite below pond scum for using the good name of vets to push your agenda. I grieve the loss of life in the mid-east, but please tell me......where is Osamma Bin Laden? 89 years and he is still on the losse.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Jul 17, 09 3:36 PM
Terry,
I won't even bother responding to you moron.

The Democrats picked the right symbol for the left wing liberals that blog here the Jackass.
By MrRight (22), bridgehampton on Jul 17, 09 9:42 PM