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Sep 30, 2013 5:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Supervisor Presents $80.7 Million Budget, Says Taxes Will Stay Flat

Oct 2, 2013 10:11 AM

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst unveiled her proposed 2014 budget on Monday, trumpeting its forecasts of stable tax rates, decreased debt payments and climbing revenues.

The $80.7 million spending plan represents an increase in spending of about $2.3 million over this year’s adopted budget, or about 3 percent. But the budget projects no tax increase for town residents, thanks to climbing revenues and other savings, and actually proposes a tiny decrease in the total tax levy to be raised from property taxes.

The biggest spending hikes come from contractual demands related to the town’s 482 employees. Total employee costs will climb by $2.1 million, mostly in salaries for current employees, from $56.4 million this year to $58.5 million next year, or more than 3.5 percent.

“As with all municipal budgets, the greatest expense we have is associated with our greatest asset: our personnel,” Ms. Throne-Holst said on Monday, speaking to an audience of officials, town employees and residents at a special meeting of the Town Board. “We have been able to control costs by reducing staff through retirement incentives ... reorganizing operations to achieve greater efficiencies, and adhering to a hiring freeze where appropriate.”

According to information released by the supervisor’s office, residents can expect to pay roughly 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed value—in line with what they are paying this year—if Ms. Throne-Holst’s spending plan is approved as-is. Therefore, those whose homes are assessed at $600,000 can expect to pay $239.10 in town taxes in 2014.

Town Board members, who have made modifications to the supervisor’s previous budgets, must adopt a spending plan before November 20. The board will hold work sessions with department heads to discuss the proposed spending plan on October 17 and November 7, and will open a public hearing to garner comments from residents on October 22, with at least one additional public hearing session on November 12.

Her budget, the supervisor said, proposes eliminating two vacant positions, a deputy assessor and engineer, but does not call for any layoffs. The plan does call for the addition of some full-time posts, including a heavy equipment operator in the Municipal Works Department, a groundskeeper for lands overseen by the Community Preservation Fund office, a maintenance mechanic in the Hampton Bays Water District and the expansion of a part-time mechanic’s position in the Highway Department to full-time. The supervisor also proposes adding a new part-time code enforcement officer, a part-time mechanic in the town’s central garage and a data entry clerk in the Information Technology Division at Town Hall.

Ms. Throne-Holst highlighted that the town has reduced overall staffing by some 13 percent since 2008, cutting 72 positions from its tax rolls through attrition and retirement incentives.

Union and non-union employees would receive 2-percent salary increases in the supervisor’s recommended budget, a raise that Ms. Throne-Holst called “modest.” Elected and appointed officials will not get raises.

Revenues are projected to climb by nearly $2 million, largely on the back of a $1 million leap in projected mortgage tax income. That budget line is expected to increase from $6 million to $7 million, citing forecasts indicating an expansion of the housing market.

The budget calls for about $1.7 million in surplus to be plugged into the budget to close other gaps and keep taxes low. The town’s overall surplus balance will still be left at about $26 million, the supervisor said. The 2012 budget finished the year with a nearly $4 million surplus, despite the unexpected costs incurred because of Hurricane Sandy.

About half of the surplus allocation, roughly $836,000, will go toward the town’s largest single budget item: its police department. The department’s budget in the supervisor’s proposed plan would be about $19.7 million, an increase of just over $560,000 from 2013, or about 3 percent.

Salaries for the town’s police officers are anticipated to rise by 7 percent, to about $13 million, in 2014 as the town is expected to ink new contracts with the unions representing its rank-and-file officers and department brass. The contract with the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association expired at the end of 2012 and the 2014 budget anticipates approximately 2 percent raises for officers in 2013 and 2014.

Nonetheless, the town expects to be able to absorb those climbing costs thanks to an aggressive paring down of the amount of debt it is carrying and taking on each year.

“The real thing that’s going to make this budget balance this year, and in the years to come, is by [the Town Board] having really controlled their borrowing the last three years and setting up the pay-as-you-go policy,” Town Comptroller Len Marchese said of the town’s policy of making departments pay for many capital expenditures out of their operating funds that once were commonly borrowed for.

“Debt was 25 percent of the budget in some of these funds, in the Highway Department it was over 25 percent,” he continued. “When you start to hold the line on that you really see a difference. It’s like when you pay off the mortgage on your house, you have a lot of extra money. We’re now going to have more real money to spend on real programs.”

Early reactions from across the political aisle were positive, if circumspect.

“I’m happy to see that the debt service is continuing to come down,” said Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera, a Republican. In a message later, Ms. Scalera said she the Town Board needs to take a closer look at the projections for mortgage tax revenue increases and the possibility that a larger amount of surplus might be used to possibly lower the tax burden on residents slightly.

Fellow Republican Councilman Chris Nuzzi said it is important to him to see the town maintain its hiring freeze and keep the tax levy flat, or trending downward.

“That’s what we’ve done for the last three years and I think we can do it for a fourth year,” said Mr. Nuzzi, who will leave the board in December because of term limits and is running for Suffolk County legislator. “We do have to look at staffing, especially as it relates to public safety, but if [new hiring] does happen, we should be mindful to find an offset, a budgetary offset.”

Mr. Nuzzi said he would like to see the town dedicate money to incentives for homeowners to help tackle water quality problems, like subsidies for septic system upgrades and replacement.

Conservative Party member and Town Councilman Jim Malone applauded the supervisor’s commitment to continuing to hold the line on tax increases. “Any budget process that begins with a continuation of no new taxes is an encouraging start point for me,” he said on Tuesday.

Ms. Throne-Holst, an Independence Party member who presented her fourth budget, cited a continuing policy of stringent spending controls and an emphasis on reducing borrowing and the town’s long-term debt service, freeing up more money to be spent on the town’s day-to-day business.

Her political opponent in the November election, Republican Linda Kabot, said the supervisor’s telling of the budget is misleading.

“At first blush the message sounds wonderful, it sounds like the town is on solid financial footing, as it was when I left office,” said Ms. Kabot, who served as supervisor from 2007 to 2009 before losing her reelection bid to Ms. Throne-Holst. “But in my opinion, there’s a pattern of untruthfulness with the current supervisor. The devil is always in the details.”

But Ms. Throne-Holst trumpeted her record over the last three years of conservative financial management.

“I am confident that this is a sound fiscal plan that will keep the town on the steady course to improved financial stability that it has been on for the past three years,” she said in her budget message on Monday. “At the end of the day, a budget is evidence of your local government’s stewardship of your tax dollars. As chief financial officer for the town, I have no greater responsibility.”

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I get it now...
Story has been up for hours but because it is good news, no posts.
By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on Oct 1, 13 5:24 AM
ok, here's a post: 2% increase .. how about 0% but you still have your job. but I respeckt how throne-holst handled it.

..what are the "climbing revenues"? selling town property I fear. selling town land which is ours and then how will that 'revenue' be replaced next year.

no debt is great for the town but controlled debt isn't so bad to consider before TAPERING starts.

but this should be the defacto news story every year. no standing ovation for controlling government ...more
By david h (405), southampton on Oct 1, 13 1:55 PM
Article clearly states where at least 1/2 the "climbing revenues" come from: "Revenues are projected to climb by nearly $2 million, largely on the back of a $1 million leap in projected mortgage tax income."

No Town Land is on the block - this isn't Suffolk County.

By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 1, 13 2:19 PM
david h, "selling town property I fear"? Why would you just make something up and then run with it? Nothing in the story about land sales. Facts count in a debate, and you just cant make them up to satisfy your point of view.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Oct 1, 13 3:20 PM
it is a question not a debate - so I made up a question agreed. I asked "does the town sell land to generate current revenue?"
..fair question. eventually town runs out of land. and all land is built upon. reasonable fear.
how does a town increase tax rev ?? by developing is one way, right? so this is increased revenue from 88 new condo units for example? but that cant be on the tax roll yet ..
and if theres "Nothing in the story about land sales." then .. well that's ...more
By david h (405), southampton on Oct 1, 13 4:01 PM
The more property flips that occur, the more $$ the Town gets in mortgage tax revenue (and CPF funds). The wealthy who trade houses like baseball cards are almost entirely responsible for the mortgage tax revenue (again, same goes for CPF). New Development allows for the potential for more mortgages, but it's a drop in the bucket (in Southampton Town) compared to the amount generated from house flips.

From NYS - Mortgage Tax: New York State imposes a tax on the privilege of recording ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 1, 13 4:09 PM
All land is not built upon, the town county and state have preserved thousands of acres of land over the last 20 years.
How does the town, "run out of land"?

your point of view is wrong if you made it up out of thin air, yes.
And based on your ascertations the obvious did need to be pointed out.
"how does the town increase revenue? by developing is one way, right"? No, wrong, the town does not develop property.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Oct 1, 13 8:18 PM
Baited and hooked IMO.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Oct 1, 13 9:32 PM
amended to "sell, arrange sale, make available for development, re-zone to suit"
By david h (405), southampton on Oct 2, 13 7:22 AM
ok, here's a post: 2% increase .. how about 0% but you still have your job. but I respeckt how throne-holst handled it.

The problem is inflation rises - so a raise (this is a standard COLA - cost of living) is really a pay stabalizer. No raises = paycut ever year, essentially.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 1, 13 2:17 PM
Perhaps, Nature, but the rest of us have just lived with that "paycut every year", haven't we, with proposed Federal increases with NO "stabilization". But that's OK - those who aren't on the government payrolls "get it". Trust me.
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Oct 1, 13 2:56 PM
Watcher - not arguing for or against, simply stating that a "raise" is actually keeping in step with inflation. If employees don't get raises for, say, 10 years, they will have taken a substantial pay cut (in essence).

By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 1, 13 3:09 PM
I can't believe there are 482 employees, an 80 million dollar budget, and they can't even pick up your leaves without a battle.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 2, 13 8:09 AM
1 member liked this comment
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Oct 2, 13 8:26 AM

And actually it's 1 employee who is responsible for the leaf pickup, the highway superindedent (which the public gets to vote for).
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 2, 13 9:13 AM
didn't SHPD just do a nice leaf pickup in water mill the other day ??

By david h (405), southampton on Oct 2, 13 10:17 AM
All those who care about fiscal responsibility, all those who care about Southampton's credit-worthiness, all those who care about a tight rein on government spending, all those who care about competent municipal management, can see that Anna Throne-Holst has brought all of those things to Southampton Town, and they were not there before under the administration of Linda Kabot as supervisor.

Sort of makes it an easy choice on Election Day, November 5th.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 3, 13 8:58 PM
Yes, George, and those interested in the truth and not your very biased opinion. know that Kabot, not Throne-Holst brought the Town back from the fiscal brink.

No matter how often you utter your opinion, it is still just opinion, George, and unfortunately for you and Ms. Throne-Holst the documented facts hold otherwise.

Time to admit the big lie is just not working George. I and others here well know your propensity to use and love of traditional propaganda techniques.

Let ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Oct 4, 13 7:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
Linda Kabot = $5 million deficit
Anna throne-holst = $4 million surplus

Linda Kabot = runaway spending
Anna Throne-holst = tight spending controls

Linda Kabot = declining credit rating
Anna Throne-Holst = restored credit rating, AA+

"Big lie" is right, NTiger, and you and your candidate are brazenly telling it, but we'll just stick with the simple facts, no long, labored posts desperately trying to throw sand in the people's eyes, just the facts, and the facts ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 6, 13 11:49 AM
TB, facts show that these are the true statistics, not yours, which I dare you to challenge with facts:

1)Linda Kabot reduced the budget in late 2009 by $4.5 Million after 5 years of out of control spending by Heaney, who is responsible for the massive doubling of the Town budget under his watch NOT LINDA KABOT and I challenge you to refute that fact very evident from historical budgets at the Town Clerk's office.

Before Kabot, no one knew of the fraudulent condition of the Town's ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Oct 6, 13 10:21 PM
Another long post with a lot of words trying to tear down the simple facts. With all that, Obbservant, you've raised some debatable points about spending, and haven't even touched on my other two facts, about the Kabot deficit vs. the ATH surplus, or the Kabot bad credit watch vs. the ATH restoration of our credit. Same old, same old from you folks.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 7, 13 9:44 AM
Turkey Bridge, you are so fiscally naïve that you couldn't even connect the dots I laid out obvious that's so obvious? So let me spell it out for you re your two points you didn't even realize I had destroyed already - just clueless:

1)Kabot Deficit vs ATH surplus: I obviously answered that by saying that the Deficits, as confirmed by the NY State Comptroller's audit was started and accomplished during Heaney's wild doubling of the budget over five Heaney years, with the first Kabot ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Oct 7, 13 9:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
Go Anna!
By khan (36), hampton bays on Oct 11, 13 12:53 AM
No George, wrong again, spinning wildly.

The Democrat Comptroller of the New York conducted an audit of the Kabot years and despite the deficit Kabot inherited and the 2008 recession found that Kabot had the Town on "solid financial footing".

Unlike you need to place partisan spin and the Comptroller was interested in fact finding and truth.

And then there was Moody's who said of Kabot's years as Supervisor took, "swift and effective response to correct the Town's internal ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Oct 7, 13 12:08 PM
1 member liked this comment