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Oct 27, 2010 11:23 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Board Members Argue Over Proposed Budget

Oct 27, 2010 11:23 AM

The Southampton Town Board unanimously agreed to convert Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s tentative $82 million budget for 2011 into a preliminary document last Thursday, October 21—but not before arguing over who helped craft the extensive proposed spending plan.

The supervisor’s budget represents a 2.76-percent increase in spending over this year’s amended $79.8 million spending plan, though much of the $2.2 million spending increase would be used to pay off deficits in the town’s waste management and beaches enterprise funds. If approved, the budget would include a 2.4 percent increase in taxes.

Last week’s vote was not to approve the $82 million budget; board members simply agreed to change the status of the document from “tentative” to “preliminary,” a required step in order for the town to hold public hearings on the proposed spending plan.

The argument was ignited after George Lynch, an advisor on former Democratic Town Councilwoman Sally Pope’s campaign staff, took the podium at a special Town Board meeting that day to talk about the spending plan and to commend Ms. Throne-Holst for her work on it. Mr. Lynch then accused Town Board members Chris Nuzzi, Nancy Graboski and Jim Malone of declining invitations to attend budget meetings with Ms. Throne-Holst.

“I just get the feeling that, like so many things, this budget process is being treated like a chess game rather than the common effort that it should be, and I don’t think that’s what the people want,” Mr. Lynch said. He later added that he based his comments on information he received from the town supervisor.

Mr. Nuzzi and Ms. Graboski said they were offended by the accusations, calling them false. They said they had all participated in some budgetary meetings with department heads and Ms. Throne-Holst.

Mr. Nuzzi first took aim at Mr. Lynch and then at Ms. Throne-Holst, questioning why Mr. Lynch didn’t question the Town Board members on the side before publicizing his assumptions. Mr. Nuzzi later indignantly turned to Ms. Throne-Holst, asking her repeatedly the same question: “Anna, did we sit through your budget meetings? Did we sit through your budget meetings? Can you answer that question? … Did we sit through your budget meetings with the department heads?”

Ms. Throne-Holst countered that they had not sat through any meetings between the time the requested budget was submitted on September 17 and when the tentative document was first unveiled on October 1. While giving her explanation, Ms. Throne-Holst was interrupted by Mr. Nuzzi. “Will you let me finish?” she said. “Stop bullying me, okay? And let me finish.”

Ms. Throne-Holst later said that Mr. Nuzzi and Ms. Graboski had participated in some of the meetings before the tentative budget was unveiled but were invited to participate further through a memo that was presented to all Town Board members along with the requested budget. They did not attend those meetings, according to the supervisor. Within days after the budget was unveiled, Mr. Nuzzi, Ms. Graboski and Mr. Malone issued a press release complaining that Ms. Throne-Holst had not followed through with promises to be “inclusive” of Town Board members during the budgeting process and only received copies of the budget 15 minutes before it was presented.

On Monday, Mr. Nuzzi maintained that Ms. Throne-Holst’s comments were “a manipulation of the truth,” a sentiment that he also expressed at last week’s meeting. “I can only say this: I attended meetings on the budget with the supervisor,” he said. “I don’t know how much clearer I can make it.”

Further, he said the term “requested budget” is one that was concocted by Ms. Throne-Holst, and that the budget process is still open for discussion until November 20—the day the spending plan must be adopted by the Town Board. “She made up that nonsense about the requested budget,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “Do you know there’s no such thing in law as the requested budget?”

On Tuesday, Ms. Graboski wrote an e-mail saying that what bothers her most about last week’s discussion was that it involved “petty behavior” and wasted time that officials could have better spent on more pressing issues. “I was greatly offended by the comments made by George Lynch that certain Town Board members, including me, had not attended budget meetings on the requested budget,” she said. “This is altogether not true and, as town council liaison, I participated in several budget meetings along with department heads.

“I have to wonder where Mr. Lynch got his information from and why he chose to be so confrontational,” Ms. Graboski continued. “Clearly, he didn’t do his homework.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said the invitation sent to Town Board members was formalized in writing only once, in a memo that came with the requested budget. She said she also extended several verbal invitations to them in public but was never taken up. “The invitation was put out there numerous times,” she said.

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Nobody seems to be getting raises these days...everyone that is employed feels lucky to have a job,,,yet southampton town is raising our takes AGAIN!
CUT SERVICES!
By c'mon now (46), southampton on Oct 27, 10 5:23 PM
Cut Services? The last thing senior citizens need is to have their services cut.
By dbnyeve (19), wading river on Oct 27, 10 8:52 PM
Maybe if we can elect someone without having them sell out to the police, and the ensuing police state that no one can afford to support, then we wouldn't see tax increases like this. This budget increase is a disgrace not withstanding the mess she was left to clean up. Steve Levy is the only local politician with the guts to stand up to the police and he is systematically marginalized. What the hell is going on?
By realdeal (23), Southampton on Oct 28, 10 11:04 AM
It is astonishing that the spayed mares and geldings who sit on the Town Council would argue over pride of authorship of the disgraceful proposed budget, a budget that adds millions to the previous budget and is mute on the subject of million dollar plus annual police patronage . If they would simply terminate the superannuated cops that the Chief says he could do without, the budget increase would be more than halved. As it is, when the arbitrator finally hands down a judgment in the currrent ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Oct 28, 10 11:40 AM
2 members liked this comment
There is no "arbitrators awrd" coming Vince. Now please for the sake of humanity, leave the dead horse alone.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Oct 29, 10 9:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
Really!? Have the STPD officers already received the increased salary that was in arbitration at the last election? How much are they making now?

- highhatsize
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Oct 29, 10 2:13 PM
There was a negotiated settlement reached in the spring. No arbitrator was involved.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Nov 2, 10 8:47 AM
I for one do NOT want a tax increase under any circumstances. The budget is big enough already to make things work out without another increase.
By deKooning (106), southampton on Oct 29, 10 11:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
Hearing at 6 PM on Thursday 11/4, just announced recently.

http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/Southampton/309721/Southampton-Town-Sets-First-Hearing-On-2011-Preliminary-Budget
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Nov 2, 10 3:43 PM