East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson's released his tentative budget for 2013 on Monday, floating a $3.3 million increase to help cover costs for the Scavenger Waste facility and the East Hampton Airport. Though the increase technically falls below the state's tax cap.
Under the tentative $69 million budget — up 5 percent from the 2012 budget — the East Hampton Town Justice Court won't be closed one day a week anymore for employees to catch up on administrative tasks, as it has been for about a year. The court's budget will increase 18.9 percent, adding a new position for help in accounting and bookkeeping — the only new position created in the supervisor's budget. The $993,928 justice court budget also funds five more hours of work time for all current employees. The senior court clerk will also be promoted to Justice Court Director.
Among the increases is a 180 percent jump in funds to support ocean rescue, including a new beach vehicle in the capital budget; a 9 percent increase for the Harbors and Docks line; and a 13 percent increase in the senior nutrition program.
Village residents will receive a third consecutive tax rate decrease with a reduction of 1.7 percent, and those living outside of the village limits will see a spike in their taxes of 4.6 percent. "The difference in the rate movement for inside versus outside the villages is due primarily to the higher average assessed property value in the villages compared to outside the villages, and the departments funded solely by those living outside a village," Wilkinson's budget reports.
This is the third budget Wilkinson has prepared. In the previous three, village residents received a 13.2 percent tax cut, while those living in the town limits saw their taxes slashed 28.7 percent.
State 2 Percent Tax Levy Cap
The 2013 budget is the first town budget prepared under the state-mandated cap. While the tentative budget stays within the 2 percent tax levy cap, the amount allowed is higher than the standard. "This is due mostly to the fact that East Hampton Town experienced a 1.73 percent decrease in its 2012 tax levy and a portion of that decrease ($716,054) becomes a credit for 2013," he wrote.
He added that the 2013 cap amount — 4.2 percent — is established by the State Comptroller's office.
The tax levy increase is 3.2 percent, or $1.4 million.
Scavenger Wastewater Fund
Despite a split board, Wilkinson's budget includes funding for the Scavenger Waste Plant as a transfer station for the first three months of the year, "by which time a final decision on the matter will hopefully be made by the Town Board."
Wilkinson projects a deficit of at least $700,000 at the end of 2012. At least $500,000 of that has to be returned to the Refuse and Recycling Fund.
Funding for the Scavenger Waste Plant accounts for $731,150, or 22.1 percent, of the overall increase in the tentative budget.
There was no funding past the first quarter of the 2012 budget for the Scavenger Waste plant, which Wilkinson hoped to privatize. In 2011, the board voted unanimously to lease or sell the facility. Negotiations ended with the potential lessee when newly elected members of the board took office and Republican Councilman Dominick Stanzione changed his vote.
"My 2013 tentative budget includes money to pay back funds borrowed by the Scavenger Waste Fund during 2012 to operate the plant as a transfer station," he said, adding, his position about what needs to be done with the plant has not changed.
"As a result of the Board decision in February to not sell or lease the plant, we are now forced to levy more than $700,000 in property taxes on residents that I believe would have not been necessary if the previous Town Board’s decision of 2011 was implemented in 2012," Wilkinson said.
Had the plant been privatized, the existing deficit would have been eliminated. Wilkinson also claims almost $550,000 in taxes would have been saved, and the overall tax increases for those living outside of the village would have increased 3.6 percent rather than 4.6 percent and the tax rate for those living inside the villages would have decreased by 4.2 percent rather than 1.7 percent.
Airport's Use of Surplus
The supervisor's budget uses almost $110,000 in surplus for the Airport Fund to avoid levying taxes for a $352,662 increase.
"What is unfortunate is not the use of surplus but the cost overruns that required surplus to be used," he said. The increase represents 10.66 percent of the overall budget increase. "As we move forward there will be a need to make a concerted effort to reel in the growth of many of the airport operating budget lines, especially since there is a potential $3 million runway renovation project somewhere in the future," he said.
Funding for outside agencies such as the East Hampton Child Day Care Learning Center at $80,000, the Family Service League, at $50,000 and Phoenix House substance abuse counseling support, also at $50,000, has been continued in the supervisor's budget. Funding for the Adult Day Care has also be continued.
There's $559,000 set aside for contingencies.
"Every decision that we make is based on the must of ensuring that cost of municipal government is not a catalyst for losing our future generations; that cost of government ensures protection of our assets; that cost of government guarantees a quality of life; and that cost of government has an understanding of the long term effects of our decision-making," Wilkinson said.
"Future administrations may choose to alter and change these values and make their decisions based on party affiliation or the demands of a few. That will be their decision," he said.
NOTE: A copy of the budget is attached in a PDF here.