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Mar 25, 2009 11:06 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village projecting 1.8-percent tax increase

Mar 25, 2009 11:06 AM

An early draft of Southampton Village’s 2009-10 budget was unveiled last week, and it includes a slight tax increase.

The proposed budget calls for a spending decrease of 1.4 percent and a tax rate increase of 1.8 percent. Taxes are projected to be on the rise despite the spending decrease because revenues are expected to drop, village officials said.

“Almost every department is going negative,” Mayor Epley said of spending at a meeting on Thursday, March 12. “We don’t have any double-digit increases.”

The Southampton Village Police Department has the biggest projected increase, in both percentage and dollar amount. It calls for a 6-percent hike, or $301,295 in additional spending.

The police department made cuts to its overtime, equipment, supplies, contractual services and miscellaneous budgets, but the budget for full-time employee salaries is projected to rise by 11 percent, to $4.8 million. The increase accounts for both contractual raises and new officers. The department is also looking for an 85-percent increase in its seasonal and part-time employees budget, up to $234,640. Using part-time employees more often will give the overtime budget some relief.

The proposed budget would reduce the village’s annual contribution to its capital reserve fund from $800,000 to $500,000 and put just $150,000 into a contingency account, down from $200,000. The capital reserve fund is for major purchases, like vehicles, and the contingency fund is for unanticipated expenses and projects.

The mayor said the proposed budget does not call for any layoffs or dipping into any reserve accounts.

The tentative plan would have the village spend $19.2 million next fiscal year, which starts June 1, down from the $19.5 million budgeted for 
this year. Village officials are attempting to trim that $19.5 million by $800,000
to overcome projected revenue deficits.

The current tax rate is $14.31 per $100 of assessed property value. The tentative new tax rate is $14.57.

Mayor Epley has said it is unlikely the tax increase will dip any lower than 1.8 percent because village officials have already been working on the budget for three months. The board has until April 30 to finalize the new budget.

The tax rate increase was only 1 percent last year, but that was unintentional. The Village Board had prepared the 2008-09 budget while working with the 2006-07 tax rate, rather than the 2007-08 rate. The error was discovered only after the new tax rate was approved, so when the board members thought they had approved a 5.4-percent increase, it was really just 1 percent.

The board will hold budget hearings at 6 p.m. on April 9 and at 5 p.m. on April 21 at Village Hall. Village taxpayers are invited to attend and comment on the budget during both hearings.

Mobi-Mat

In other news, Southampton Village will spend $23,000 on roll-out mats, known as Mobi-Mats, for Coopers Beach, a move that will allow wheelchairs and strollers to navigate the sand and get close to the water.

“I had talked to a few people I know who are handicapped, and they just said it opens up a whole new world for them to able to go down to the beach with their families,” Mayor Epley said on Tuesday.

The mayor went on to say the beach is one of the village’s greatest resources, and that once the mats arrive, the beach will be open to a segment of the community that could not enjoy it before.

The Village Board signed off last week on buying the mats using money from the village parks trust, which is funded by subdivision applications rather than the tax levy. The mats will likely arrive before the Fourth of July and then stay out until at least Labor Day, Mayor Epley said. They have a lifespan of five years if they are used only in the summers, he said.

A sample Mobi-Mat is at Coopers Beach now. The one being ordered will start at the end of a wheelchair ramp and stretch down toward the water before ending in a “T,” where several persons in wheelchairs could fit at a time and look out to the horizon. The Mobi-Mats are 5 feet wide, allowing two wheelchairs to pass by each other, Mayor Epley said.

The mayor also noted that Mobi-Mat’s biggest customer is the U.S. military, which uses the mats in the deserts of Iraq.

“They have airplanes landing on these mats, so you can shoot a cannonball at them,” said Russell Krauss, a member of the village Ethics Committee and the village resident who brought the mats to the Village Board’s attention. His wife, Judi Krauss, made a presentation to the board last month on his behalf.

Mr. Krauss, who has had multiple sclerosis for 30 years, said Tuesday that he is excited the mats are on their way because he uses a walker, which doesn’t allow him to walk on the sand, and he can’t remember the last time he has been on the beach. He discovered Mobi-Mats online when he was browsing for a scooter that he could use on the sand.

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Thank you Village Board! Perhaps you can give some advise to our school boards. They certainly need to learn how to DECREASE spending!
By powerwalker (52), Southampton on Mar 13, 09 7:58 PM
Instead of increasing taxes why not just get rid of some of the superfluous help on the payroll and give us all a break.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Mar 16, 09 6:16 PM