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Oct 19, 2009 9:36 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town personnel grew while revenues were abundant

Oct 19, 2009 9:36 AM

It was good while it lasted.

Supervisor Linda Kabot is proposing drastic cuts to the town budget next year—including a total of 44 layoffs and several vacant positions eliminated—which will begin to reverse an aggressive hiring policy during a string of boom years that enabled the town to boost spending on staff and services.

Emboldened by windfall revenue from mortgage taxes and an expanding property tax base, general fund spending grew by 41 percent over seven years, from $49 million in 2002 to $82.5 million this year. Over the past four years, payroll spending jumped 20 percent, from $46.3 million in 2005 to this year’s $57.5 million—at an average rate of 5.32 percent each year.

The rapid spending hikes were aided by expanded revenue from both higher property taxes—total revenue increased 30 percent between 2002 and 2009—and unanticipated windfalls in mortgage tax revenue, which averaged about $10.1 million a year during the same period, far outpacing the per-year average of $6.59 million predicted in the town’s beginning-of-the-year budget projections.

Powered by growing revenue, Southampton increased its employee ranks by 10.3 percent between 2002 and 2008, at an average rate of eight new employees a year. The number of full-time staff reached a high of 554 employees in 2008 before dropping to 534 employees this year due to attrition, and aided by a hiring freeze.

Departments with the most new hires over the past four years are law enforcement, with 13 new workers; business management, with 12 new employees; human services, with eight new workers; and public safety, with eight new workers.

The hiring freeze enacted by the Town Board earlier this year was a reaction to declining revenue from mortgage taxes, which officials expect to drop by a total of 63 percent between 2007 and 2010, down from $12.66 million in 2007 to a possible low of $5.25 million next year.

On September 30, Ms. Kabot proposed a $78 million budget for 2010 in hopes of offsetting the drop in mortgage taxes. Ms. Kabot’s budget sets spending 5.5 percent lower that this year’s $82.5 million budget and brings overall spending below 2007 levels of $80 million. The budget calls for a freeze on employee salaries, an early retirement plan for senior workers, and other worker concessions designed to bring about savings.

Ms. Kabot said the 2010 budget may come as a “culture shock” to some in the town unused to layoffs and salary freezes. “The town is coming to realize that it may not be able to sustain the payroll that it authorized in the past. And that payroll that we authorized in the past was based on higher mortgage tax revenue,” she said.

Originally it was reported that Ms. Kabot was calling for 48 layoffs. In fact, the budget calls for laying off 44 existing employees and eliminating at least two other jobs that are not currently staffed.

The supervisor said the growth in the town’s workforce allowed it to offer new services to a growing population of residents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town’s population rose from 54,712 in 2000 to 61,290 in 2008. Among the new or expanded services and program were additional park events, new youth programs and stepped-up building code enforcement—though the number of new single-family home building permits has steadily decreased from a high of 392 in 2005 to 138 in 2008. New hires also included new building inspectors and more fire marshals and deputy town attorneys.

Ms. Kabot said the town’s payroll grew as a response to demands placed upon the town by residents. “I wouldn’t characterize the [employee] cut list as positions that are not needed ... that those positions were not necessary when we created them,” she said.

Payroll expenses grew an average of 5.32 percent a year since 2005, almost twice the average rate of inflation during that period. As a result, in 2010 the town will be spending more money—$53.4 million—to employ fewer full-time workers—501 employees—than it did in 2007, when the town spent $52 million to employ 552 full-time workers.

Budget Advisory Committee member Rick Sobrevinas blamed steep raises for administrators—some as high as 57 percent over a three-year period—for contributing to the town’s current financial meltdown.

The highway superintendent’s salary rose 42 percent between 2005 and 2008, from $72,000 to $102,000. Meanwhile, the salary of an affirmative action officer rose 50 percent in two years, from $40,000 in 2006 to $60,000 in 2008. And a senior citizen program supervisor got a salary hike of 37 percent, from $46,000 in 2005 to $63,000 in 2008.

Over the past four years, Mr. Sobrevinas said spending on administrators grew from $2.2 million in 2005 to $3.4 million in 2008. Meanwhile, spending on administrative assistants rose from $2.5 million to $4.3 million over the same period.

“This is criminal,” Mr. Sobrevinas said. “The 24-percent raises, 54-percent raises, are just incredible. It’s just a rape ... Not even in the private sector do they have raises like that.”

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Bye, bye, Linda. You are out history even without the DWI.

And don't think for a minute that you're going to get the kind of cushy patronage job that Skip got.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 14, 09 10:07 AM
i thought democrats were supposed to be the ones who spend and create socialist welfare states. Seems like the entire town is a government-run business.

Heckuva job, Linda! And Skip!
By littleplains (305), olde england on Oct 15, 09 3:12 PM
So Linda went on a personnel shopping spree (hiring her friends and allies) and now she has buyers remorse? Don't let the door hit you on your way out.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Oct 15, 09 4:28 PM
Linda ALWAYS point the blame to someone else.So how can she wiggle her way out of this.She was right there when all this went on
LAST CALL FOR LINDA
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Oct 16, 09 8:20 AM
So.....it was our local Republican Party who was in power during this time. Why is Chris Nuzzi blaming the Democrats for big government when he was in office for these huge increases?
Why is it only now during an election year that we hear anything from Chris Nuzzi?
He and Linda have got to go!
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Oct 16, 09 9:23 AM
1 member liked this comment
People talk about setting up a hiring hall in Southampton, but we already have one -- for the Republicans and their friends and relatives -- it's called Town Hall!

SHNative has it right. There's no question that Linda Kabot, as Supervisor, bears the main responsibility for this mess, but she wasn't alone, and it didn't begin with her. This crisis is the legacy of too many years of Republican power. This isn't as political as it sounds -- it's a bad thing if any one group runs things ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Oct 16, 09 10:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
Turkey Bridge:
I'm so glad that someone has agreed with the long held assessment that HEANEY = KABOT = NUZZI. For three and a half years he did nothing but assent to everything he was told to. Now he claims to be the one who is looking for solutions to the problems he so actively helped create. It is mind boggling that he even makes such outrageous claims. In nine short months Sally Pope has turned Mr. Nuzzi on his head with more action than in his entire four year term. Bravo Sally. With Bridget ...more
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Oct 17, 09 11:21 AM
2 members liked this comment
How exactly do you get Linda Kabot into your "HEANEY = KABOT = NUZZI" equation? Chris Nuzzi may have been one of Skip Heaney's boys, but Linda Kabot sure wasn't, and never was.

This is not to make abrief for her managerial skills -- although I applaude the cuts she's trying to make -- or personal style, but every commenter here has turned this into an orgy of Kabot-bashing, often at the expense of the truth.

By Frank Wheeler (1798), Northampton on Oct 19, 09 10:57 AM
Half of the people Linda has targeted to cut are paid under $40,000 a year.
The cuts were not in all departments. 19 people would be cut from two departments, Public Works/Highways and the Animal Shelter.
I guess Linda never considered cutting salaries to save jobs. Linda's way is not the only was to cut the budget.
And what would Chris Nuzzi do but cut a couple of Town Boards to save a few thousand a year. It wouldn't even save a couple of jobs.
By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Oct 18, 09 9:40 AM
1 member liked this comment
So long, Linda. Hope we are able to clean up after you.
By yearrounder (208), Southampton on Oct 18, 09 11:12 AM
We should eliminate Nuzzi's seat (using the same arguments he made for reducing other boards), that would save $40,000 + expenses, and we wouldn't have to listen to his line of crap any more.

We should also cut the town's legal department and administrative jobs within town hall rather than the guys in the highway department who actually do real work (sometimes).
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 18, 09 12:03 PM
Noah:
That would save $60,000 (the current stipend for a Board Member) and the empty seat might actually be more productive.
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Oct 18, 09 2:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
Now you're being silly.
By Frank Wheeler (1798), Northampton on Oct 19, 09 10:58 AM
He's not being all that silly, given how very little Chris Nuzzi has said or done in his four somnolent years on the Town Board. On the other hand, you may have a point, saying HEANEY = KABOT = NUZZI isn't a perfect equation, but if in fact Linda Kabot isn't fully a part of the Heaney-Nuzzi continuum, then we have to conclude that she made her own independent contribution to the financial mess, because what you call the "Kabot-bashing" has a firm basis in fact, the fact that Ms. Kabot was Supervisor ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Oct 19, 09 1:15 PM
Chris Nuzzi sat and watched as the town budget grew by 41%.

He too must go!
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Oct 19, 09 1:54 PM
an "Affirmative action officer" got $60K a year? For doing WHAT? hiring the (allegedly) african-american John White, and them having him sue the town for racism? what a joke.

Clearly there is plenty more dead wood in Town Hall that should be fired... Too bad they seem to be firing the wrong people.
By nicole (96), Hampton Bays on Oct 19, 09 3:21 PM
Yea Nicole.....lets start with the unnecessary fourth town justice position.
What a farce...when the fourth justice was added....they did not add any new trials to our supposedly busy court schedule.
Both Nuzzi and Kabot voted for this but did not bother to ask the sitting judges what they thought of a fourth judge.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Oct 19, 09 5:05 PM
The only thing they added was a very little utilized night court on Wednesdays. Hardly any justification for a fourth justice.
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Oct 20, 09 8:49 AM
Has anyone looked at the Town Clerk's office with three Deputy Town Clerks?
Not one of them is going.
By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Oct 19, 09 5:42 PM
Chris Nuzzi did nothing while he was on the Board. That is absolutely wrong. He gummed up the works; he did the bidding of the party. He handled funds which he refused to account for and he crawled safely out of Brookhaven. Please, give the guy his due.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Oct 19, 09 6:28 PM
Yes, according to TB above, "saying HEANEY = KABOT = NUZZI isn't a perfect equation" but you've only to look at the voting record of the two of them (Heaney and Kabot) on the Town Board to see exactly how close to a perfect equation it really is. When Heaney spoke, Kabot voted.
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Oct 19, 09 7:16 PM
Maybe I'm wrong about that. It could be that I'm getting distracted by the Heaney-Kabot intraparty battle of two years ago, the wounds of which still haven't healed, but if the voting records match up like that, then it's the old tweedledum-tweedledee thing. Either way, they're both to blame for the mess we're in, along with Chris Nuzzi.

By the way, while we're talking about that gentleman, I hereby formally and publicly ask Chris Nuzzi to call off his Sign Dogs, the infantile louts who ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Oct 20, 09 7:17 PM
http://www.town.southampton.ny.us/2009Budget/2010-TENT-town-police.pdf

The first employees to go when times are lean are those who have no reasonable expectation of continued employment. The above pages from the proposed Town budget show that 27 police officers of the STPD have been retained on full salary beyond the twenty year anniversary date of their employment when they were due to retire.

Were these officers to retire, $3.6M would be freed to mitigate the terminations of ...more
By highhatsize (3739), East Quogue on Oct 20, 09 12:01 AM
Chris Nuzzi, Chris Nuzzi, where are you, Chris Nuzzi? Your Sign Dogs are still out there, 24 hours after I posted the above comment about rampant sign-stealing. Today, five Democratic signs on Montauk Highway between Quogue and the Shinnecock Canal were trashed and had to be replaced. This wasn't done by property owners or road workers, because they don't throw signs in the bushes, which is what happened here.

As stated above (Oct. 20, 09 comment, 7:17 PM), I don't say that you, Chris ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Oct 21, 09 10:51 PM
didn't I see you removing republican signs in Hampton Bays over the weekend? They too have been disappearing but it couldn't be the democrats! Must be big foot!
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Oct 22, 09 12:24 PM
You sure didn't see me, ridiculous. I don't play kid games like that.
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Oct 22, 09 4:02 PM
Updating the report on Chris Nuzzi and the Sign Dogs, it has now been two days since my first comment (above -- Oct. 20, 09 at 7:17 PM) about theft of the Democrats' signs along Montauk Highway and elsewhere. I'm glad to relate that a tour of the Highway today between Westhampton and the Canal showed all signs standing unmolested. It could be that the Sign Dogs needed a rest, or it could be that Chris Nuzzi heeded my urging and called them off. If that's what happened, he did what was needed, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Oct 22, 09 10:28 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Oct 22, 09 10:29 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Oct 22, 09 10:29 PM
Don't know how the triple posting just above happened. Brendan, maybe you can take two of them down.
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Oct 22, 09 10:30 PM
So far so good with Chris Nuzzi and the Sign Dogs (see my above comments for background). Everyone's signs have stayed up along Montauk highway between Westhampton and the Shinnecock Canal for several days now. I'll keep watching right through Election Day. Keep your fingers crossed, but we just may have recovered a degree of sanity and civility.
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Oct 27, 09 4:11 PM
Elections are not won by signs, but their theft is definately annoying and mine have been stolen, too. This is a sign of desperation, more than anything. The Republicans do not want visible support of Anna and her two good running mates seen. Kabot and Nuzzi are in trouble and Malone is a loser who adds nothing to Town Hall but more politics. So, like the bad boys that their party has become, they are out stealing signs. When you have hidden your cost overruns, used CPF money against the rules, ...more
By Dodger (146), Southampton Village on Oct 29, 09 3:05 PM
Well said, Dodger. I'm sorry to report that Chris Nuzzi's Sign Dogs are back again, pulling out opposition signs and throwing them in the woods. Even if he didn't start it, Chris Nuzzi can make it stop, and he needs to do that, or we'll all think he's OK with this infantile cheating.
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Oct 29, 09 3:33 PM