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Mar 25, 2009 5:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town officials: Capital budget is short $4.9 million

Mar 25, 2009 5:01 PM

Though options are still being investigated, Ms. Kabot said the town cannot simply issue a bond to make up for the $4.9 million inequity, and there is only $2.5 million of budget surplus currently in town coffers. Even if the $4.9 million were to be decreased by half—if only half of the allocated money was actually spent on capital projects—the town’s surplus could not be used to cover it. By law, the town must maintain a 10-percent general fund balance. The 2009 budget topped $82 million.

“We can’t just empty out our pockets,” Ms. Kabot said. “We have to keep a healthy surplus as well as a tax stabilization reserve.”

What Ms. Kabot can do, and must do, she said, is draft a corrective action plan to chip away at the $4.9 million deficiency. Town officials are burning the midnight oil on crafting that plan, she said, and will introduce it to the Town Board on Friday. The Town Board must adopt the supervisor’s corrective action plan for it to take effect.

What the town might do, according to the supervisor, is tap money from general reserves to pay for the capital projects in question, but in order to do that the projects must have a nexus with the funds from which the money is being taken. For instance, money from park reserves may be used to pay for a playground, but not for roads or drainage projects.

Some of the capital projects that the $4.9 million in direct appropriations were supposed to fund for 2005 and 2006 included vehicle purchases—including buses for the senior center—workforce housing grants, work on the town animal shelter, and land management studies.

The town had undertaken an extensive review of its books this year, anticipating that bookkeeping errors had led to a deficit in the capital budget. Estimates by town officials of how large the deficit might be ranged from $19 million to $250,000, the latter figure being closer to the anticipated shortfall, Ms. Kabot said in recent weeks, before the latest revelation.

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Really, Bill Jones you are going to pin this on a staffer in a previous administration? When are you all going to take responsibility for this? The Supervisor is the CEO of out town, and for the Deputy supervisor to lay some nebulous blame is unbecoming of the office that you hold.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Mar 21, 09 8:48 PM
4.9 million is that all, whew I feel better now. the administration should be replaced, or possiably the cuts and layoffs should start with the town stupidviser
By typical (63), southampton on Mar 22, 09 7:17 AM
Both previous posters must be rocket scientists. Did you read the article? It was Charlene and Marie who made the mistake. Do you know them? I do. They were in Skip Heaneys pocket. He would go there and flirt and they'd giggle and get away with obviously a big mistake. Linda is trying to be more than just popular. She's being responsible. Heaney was like all the rest of the failures in business today. Falsely reporting financial records to look good. You idiots.....
By lirider (288), Westhampton Beach on Mar 22, 09 7:50 AM
Blame! Blame! Blame! This sounds too familiar. Take responsibility for fixing the problem. Read Tom Friedman's column in today's NYT. He could be describing Southampton Town administration. Immature is the word he used.
By Viewpoint (26), Southampton on Mar 22, 09 9:37 AM
Looks like we are in the middle of a shell game.
By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Mar 22, 09 10:50 AM
Bring back The Southampton Party!
By Doug Penny (64), Lexington, Virginia on Mar 22, 09 11:50 AM
In view of other problems reported in the past few months its hard to believe that this recent discovery was just a human mistake. Its really time to clean house at Town Hall.
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Mar 22, 09 2:29 PM
ENOUGH ALREADY with the blame game. Get to the final bottom of the problem, recognize how it happened, and provide a solution, provide transparency and move on!
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Mar 23, 09 6:33 AM
Sally Pope looks like a hero-thanks for exposing these problems.
By Lefty46 (56), Westhampton on Mar 23, 09 7:22 AM
This appears to be a ledger error. The money is not missing, it was not moved from one account to another which apparently nobody noticed at Town Hall in the past two years. Not noticing that there is an extra $4.9 million in the main account? This does not give me much faith in Kabots abilities.
ps stopped into the Supervisors office at 9 a.m. the other day--the office opens at 8:30--just one of her five staff members was in yet. Does she not expect them to work a full day like the rest of ...more
By Hampton (50), Westhampton on Mar 23, 09 8:22 AM
If we really want to know what's going on with the books, maybe it's time for an audit from an outside source. It's sad to say, but I don't feel comfortable trusting anyone in the past or current administration to oversee the town's finances. I'm sorry, but you don't just "overlook" accounting errors of 4.9 million dollars. I'm afraid this might be a much deeper problem than we're being lead to believe. get ready for your tax increase people.
By lol@hb (20), hampton bays on Mar 23, 09 9:45 AM
Ms. Kabot, the buck stops with you.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Mar 23, 09 10:24 AM
Our supervisor spent money that we did not have. She authorized renovations in town hall. She made the decision to move the justice court to Hampton Bays rather than the receiver of taxes, increasing that project by millions and had a new slate roof put on town hall. She is raising our taxes by the maximum….Now what?
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Mar 23, 09 8:57 PM
Linda has come across as a complete fool over this. Does she realize how bad she has made her public image? One of her advisors should tell her to clam up and get to work. She has been on a crusade against Charlene Kagel since Kagel supported Skip in the election. Remember the infamous You Tube video Linda made bashing each staff member who openly supported Heaney?
Linda, for once, just be quiet, do the work you were elected to do and stop trying to make those who preceded you look bad. It's ...more
By Hampton (50), Westhampton on Mar 25, 09 9:13 AM
I must agree with most of the comments - especially the point about keeping quiet about everything until it is all straightened out. The story has changes 3 or 4 times now and its always someones elses' fault. Just get to the bottom of it, fix it and move on!
By justask (1), Hampton Bays on Mar 26, 09 12:01 PM
AVZ (the auditor) shares part of the responsibility - what is the Town paying them for? (remember Arthur Andersen?). I think the voices here who are calling for a "cease fire" in the numbers game have the right idea; let's cease the finger pointing and solve the problem. There doesn't seem to anything criminal here - just slopiness. Many people may have other issues to call Ms Kabot on but this one seems to be inherited; lets get it solved.
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Mar 26, 09 3:23 PM
Kabot inherited this N of Hwy? Where have you been. Kabot has been in Town Hall for well over a decade. First as Vinces Gal Friday, then as a Councilwoman and now Supervisor herself. Saying she inherited the problem makes her look even dumber than she is. Or was that the point of your comment?
By G (342), Southampton on Mar 26, 09 4:32 PM
I understand she's been on finance committees and such in the past and therefore - shame on her - the story broke into the public on her watch whether she knew about it or not.. However, having spent the last 22 years in municipal finance in a number of positions I can tell you sloppy accounting like this can go on for years without anyone addressing it as those in power do not like bad news, regardless of who is to blame. Budget accounting can be a very arcane business and without audits many issues ...more
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Mar 27, 09 3:38 PM
Any chance theat King Richard will assume ANY responsibility as a former Comptroller, and "have to keep my fingers in everything" guy? Maybe he was busy spending 4.5 mil on the Flanders Senior Center. 4.5 mil? Yep thats right folks, just drive by and see what you can do for 4.5mil!!
By Terry (380), Southampton on Mar 27, 09 6:45 PM
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Mar 30, 09 11:18 AM