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Sep 3, 2009 2:19 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Supervisor: East Hampton tax hike is certain

Sep 3, 2009 2:19 PM

The only thing that’s certain about the preliminary budget that East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill McGintee plans to present by the end of September is that it will contain a tax increase.

Mr. McGintee said this week that he’s uncertain how big a tax increase will be needed because he has not yet begun to look at potential increases in revenue for the town.

“That would be a definite,” said Mr. McGintee of potential tax increases. “There’s just items that need to be taken care of. The CSEA contract alone requires that we raise taxes and last year we made a lot of major cuts. Again, my major concern is that we budgeted this year for $4 million in a revenue stream for mortgage tax, and we’re going to have a shortfall there, but we’re not sure what that shortfall is. It could be $1 million plus.”

Mr. McGintee said that he will likely budget for only $3 million in mortgage tax revenue next year.

Last year, town taxpayers saw a 24-percent jump in their taxes when the town’s fiscal crisis hit home, and it was revealed that the tax rate had been kept artificially low for many years. Residents of East Hampton Village saw the town portion of their taxes increase by a whopping 39 percent.

By all accounts, the town is currently in disastrous fiscal health. The town is now expected to use all of $15 million in special deficit financing approved last year by New York State and could be facing an additional shortfall of as much as $5 million by the end of this year. Earlier this summer, the town applied for and received a six-month extension, to June of 2010, of the time it was allowed to convert $10 million in short-term deficit financing to long-term bonds, due to the town’s inability to provide accurate documentation of the true depth of its deficit.

Proposals ranging from a one-time tax to pay down the anticipated additional deficit at the end of this year to the sale of three parcels of town-owned land are on the table, as is a proposal for early retirement for some town employees, though many on the Town Board are concerned that early retirement will not provide taxpayers with any savings.

The town’s CSEA union president, Heath Liebman, rejected rumors that the town had made an early retirement proposal to the union that he had rejected. Mr. Liebman said that he has not received any such offer from the town. Town Board member Julia Prince, who had been collecting the data on early retirement, has been on hiatus from work for two weeks due to her father’s death.

“It’s just hearsay,” he said of the rumors. “I would only reject anything that was illegal.”

Though Mr. McGintee refrained from commenting on the potential for layoffs in the 2010 budget, saying that he would know more once he crunches all of the budget numbers, Mr. Liebman said that he’s hearing from many town employees that their departments are already understaffed.

“My department itself is understaffed. We make do with what we have,” he said. “That’s a common complaint. We’re going to keep going forward and do our best. That’s the least we can give to the town. The Town Board has said to me that layoffs most likely won’t happen this year. They see us out there working hard.”

Union members last year had entered into arbitration over the town’s decision to switch health insurance plans from Island Group to the Empire Plan, in part due to the increase in co-pays under the new plan. Mr. Liebman said that he has been notified that the union will not know the results of the arbitration until mid-October, which could have budget implications for the town, which switched providers as a cost-saving measure.

A proposal to sell three town-owned pieces of land has also hit a snag after the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons and the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society last week sent letters to the town opposing the plan. The plots include 7.6 acres of donated land on Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott that is residentially zoned and cannot be subdivided, according to Town Attorney John Jilnicki. Two one-acre lots on Springs-Fireplace Road are also being considered for sale. Mr. Jilnicki said that those two plots were placed in Nature Preserve status and would require public hearings to allow them to revert to their former commercial zoning. The LWV, in its objection, stated that the sale of land was contrary to the town’s long-held preservation policies. The trails group made mention of several trails on the properties.

Andy Gaites, who works as a land steward in the town’s Department of Land Management, said that he believes the trail on the Daniels Hole Road property could be moved onto a nearby preserved parcel. He said that there is currently a trail between the two properties on Springs-Fireplace Road, and that he would like to see an easement placed on that property if it is sold. He said that he has not seen any threatened species on any of the property.

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Look for a similar tax hike in Southampton due to the same incompetency and lies. It is time to pull the rug out from under these jerks.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Sep 2, 09 6:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
On one hand Democrat McGintee, a founding member of the Democrat PAC "the Conservators" states, "It's a piece of property that we don't need. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of preserved acres throughout the town." Then on the other hand the Democrat power brokers like Gorman (also a "Conservator") are trying to convince the public it is the Republicans who don't support land preservation. What a farce. Republicans have preserved thousands of acres in East Hampton, and it is now the Democrats ...more
By truthinbonac (46), Amagansett on Sep 2, 09 11:01 PM
shocker. Another GVT official mismanaging our tax payer dollars. EH, NY Federal GVT bleeding red ink.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Sep 5, 09 3:03 PM
Umm - just looking at my calendar - September 30 is a Wednesday. . . .
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Sep 14, 09 7:03 PM