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Nov 10, 2009 6:17 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Non-profit groups plead for more funding from East Hampton

Nov 10, 2009 6:17 PM

Despite a proposed 11.2-percent tax increase in East Hampton Town’s proposed $72.1 million budget for 2010, most who spoke up at a budget hearing before the Town Board on Thursday, November 5, were more upset that funding for a wide range of community organizations has been eliminated.

From the after-school program Project MOST, whose organizers were told not to bother to apply for a town grant after receiving $45,000 two years ago, to the East Hampton Day Care Center, whose funding has been slashed 25 percent to the Family Service League counseling center and the East End Special Players, the tune that echoed across the Town Board room was one of shock and anger over the town’s priorities.

“Every time I drive out here, I’m offended by what’s on the front lawn,” attorney Stephen Grossman told the board at the hearing, referring to the $7 million historic Town Hall complex that has yet to be completed. “I hope not another penny of taxpayer money goes there.”

Mr. Grossman added that he was dismayed that funding for programs that allow children to be safe while their parents are working would be cut, while town justices earn $135,000 per year and “work in a palace.” He also criticized the town for spending $1.6 million on outside consultants and giving money to The Phoenix House, a substance abuse program that has an endowment, while taking away money from the East Hampton Day Care Center.

“We have an obligation to the working families in this community,” he said, adding that he was equally disheartened that the meeting was not held at night, when working people could attend. “Restore the cut to day care and give money to Project MOST. Two of you are leaving and two of you are staying. You’ve all been part of a disastrous administration. This will give you the opportunity to leave here with your heads high.”

Though no night hearings on the budget are scheduled, a legal notice for Thursday’s hearing was not published in the town’s official newspaper, The East Hampton Star, prompting the board to allow public comment but hold the hearing open until next Friday, November 13, at 10:30 a.m. The budget must be adopted by November 20.

Mr. Grossman was just one of nearly two dozen speakers in a room packed with about 100 people, who pleaded with the board to restore funding for community programs. Supervisor-elect Bill Wilkinson and incoming Town Board members Dominick Stanzione and Theresa Quigley were in the audience, but all three left the hearing early and none of them spoke.

Architect Paul Rogers, along with his daughter, Phoebe Rogers, who is a regular participant in the theater troupe East End Special Players, said that the $20,000 grant that the group received last year was vital to its continued operation. This year, that funding has been cut entirely. The group of learning disabled actors, which meets at the Bridgehampton Senior Center and is also funded by Southampton Town, is currently at work on a collaborative project with drummers and dancers in Ghana.

“East End Special Players is very important to all of us. It is the highlight of our week,” said Ms. Rogers.

Genie Henderson, who serves on the group’s board of directors, said that the funding cut is “just going to obliterate the organization.”

Carol McGee of the Family Service League also pleaded with the board to restore a $25,000 funding cut. She said that the counseling center is “the only organization from Montauk to Wainscott” that serves children, adolescents and adults.

“We also haven’t gotten raises in two to three years,” she said. “That cut is almost a person’s salary. That’s how little we get paid.”

Henry Haney urged the board to sell land in order to offset the budget gap, though board members said that they have had difficulty finding land that they do not either owe money on or isn’t otherwise restricted.

“A lot of appraisals are coming back pretty low. Are we going to make 75 cents on the dollar?” asked Town Board member Julia Prince.

Deputy Supervisor Pete Hammerle added that once the town suggested the only substantial land sale—of about 7 acres in Wainscott—the board started getting “all kinds of resistance” from people who wanted the town to keep the land.

“A lot of it is encumbered. A lot of previous boards have turned them into parks and rec. We’re trying,” said Ms. Prince.

“Try harder,” said Mr. Haney.

Brian Carabine, the former commander of the East Hampton Veterans of Foreign Wars, who had been watching the proceedings on television at home, came to the meeting furious.

“When I see people coming up begging for programs, there should be no one on the Town Board taking a salary,” he said. “You have all kinds of people riding around doing nothing in town. All you people are criminals if you don’t cut the fat ... You have people working in offices for Bill McGintee. Why are they working now that he’s gone?”

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I am a Past Commander of VFW Post 550, not the current Commander. I am a retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant. I also said when I spoke that one of the reasons that the Marine Corps has staff non-commisioned officers is as truth tellers to make sure that it stays true to itself. This Town needs many truth tellers, to say things in public that they say to their friends in private.
By Brian Carabine (1), East Hampton on Nov 10, 09 9:08 AM
1 member liked this comment
As an officer in a 501c3, I can attest NFP's provide a valued service where private enterprise and government do not operate. It is the Director's obligation to develop other sources of funding to ensure the stability of the entity. To rely solely on one revenue stream is truly the kiss of death in any organization.
By Hambone (514), New York on Nov 11, 09 10:48 PM
I agree with Hambone on a Non Profit developing multipule revenue streams. Often the monies that come through a township to other agencies are pass through grants, coming from Federal or State funding and filtering down to the town which then disperses it locally.
When the Federal or State funds are cut, the town then must adjust accordingly.
Responsible leadership requires ensuring the future of a NFP in the event that a funding source dries up.
I would look more closely at how ...more
By spinwool1 (1), South Otselic on Nov 13, 09 6:59 AM