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Nov 23, 2010 10:06 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Adopts Amended $79.9 Million 2011 Budget

Nov 23, 2010 10:06 AM

The Southampton Town Board adopted a slimmed-down $79.9 million budget for 2011 on Friday—a spending plan that cuts taxes by just under 1 percent—following nearly 13 hours of debate over two days, as the Republican-Conservative majority approved a slew of last-minute amendments to Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s preliminary budget.

Under the adopted plan, spending would be cut by about $172,000 over the current year’s amended $80 million budget. The tax rate is projected to be about $1.36 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which means a town resident whose home is assessed at $600,000, and who does not live in any of the incorporated villages, will pay about $817.86 in town taxes next year, a $6.54 drop from this year, according to Town Comptroller Tamara Wright.

The amended budget was approved by a 3-1 margin, with Republican Town Board members Nancy Graboski and Chris Nuzzi and Conservative Town Councilman Jim Malone supporting it, and Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, a Democrat, opposed. In the end, Ms. Throne-Holst, an independent, abstained from voting; she later explained that she questioned the legality of certain changes enacted Friday, such as a decision to set aside funds that were not yet in the town’s bank accounts, and called the proposed budget “a dangerous step backward for the town.” She also said it “clearly perpetuates the mistakes and missteps of the past.”

The adopted budget also pokes holes in Ms. Throne-Holst’s proposed restructuring of certain town departments that were included in her preliminary $82.1 million spending plan, which would have raised taxes about 2.4 percent, primarily to pay down deficits in the town’s beaches and waste management funds. But while spending overall was reduced, the adopted budget sets aside nearly $150,000 for the salary and benefits for the head of the Business Management Department, also known as the General Services Department, that would have been eliminated under the supervisor’s plan.

The adopted budget also shuffles several positions around in various departments, including a massive staff reorganization in the town comptroller’s office. Under the plan, a budget analyst position, a now-vacant auditor position and an administrative assistant position will all be transferred to the Business Management Department. A payroll supervisor position will also be created in the town comptroller’s office.

Instead of appropriating $1.85 million to pay down deficits in the town’s beaches and waste management funds—a primary goal of the town supervisor’s spending plan—the adopted budget sets aside just $500,000. Instead, the plan counts on anticipated surplus mortgage tax revenues—specifically, up to $1.75 million more than the $5.25 million in mortgage tax proceeds that the town has budgeted to collect next year—to pay down the remainder of that debt.

Also, the town’s overtime and consultant costs were slashed by 5 percent. Rich Lalomia, a budget assistant to Ms. Wright, said earlier this week he does not yet know how much will be cut from those lines.

Regarding Ms. Throne-Holst’s plan to raise $1.85 million through taxes to help pay down the deficits in the two funds, Mr. Nuzzi said he would not support a measure that taxes “people to basically put money in our piggy bank.”

Ms. Wright, meanwhile, expressed concern over a move that appropriates $950,000 from the town’s Land Management Enterprise Fund to help stabilize taxes. Several weeks ago, the account was thought to be sporting a healthy fund balance of nearly $2.6 million. But since then town officials learned that nearly $1.9 million in park fees had been placed in the wrong accounts, and Ms. Wright argued that the surplus no longer exists. In fact, she said that the allocation could result in a deficit in that budget line.

At Friday’s meeting, Ms. Throne-Holst said she abstained from voting on the amended budget because she questioned whether or not the Town Board could appropriate money from a fund balance that was not yet in the account. On Monday, the supervisor said she felt caught “between a rock and a hard place,” explaining that she did not want to vote against the budget and give the impression that she was unwilling to work with her fellow Town Board members.

“Am I going to try my best to make it work? Of course I am,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “In fact, I have renewed resolve for trying to keep chipping away at doing the right thing here ... But I can’t say yes to something that I know is simply not in the town’s best interest.”

The slew of amendments first came to light last Thursday, November 18, during a Town Board work session—one day before the budget had to be adopted. Both Ms. Throne-Holst and Ms. Fleming, who were not involved in drafting the amendments, repeatedly emphasized their frustration and concern over the last-minute changes that Mr. Nuzzi, Ms. Graboski and Mr. Malone declined to share ahead of time. The supervisor and Ms. Fleming said the three board members did not give them, or taxpayers, enough time to thoroughly vet them before the budget was required to be approved on Friday.

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Job well done! Raisng taxes is the last thing any of us need right now. I hope the state and feds follow suit.
By hb guy (17), Hampton Bays on Nov 20, 10 11:27 AM
Three strikes for the Republican-Conservative majority: [1] Lowering taxes is a cheap way to curry favor, a blatant political maneuver, and the height of irresponsibility when the town is in the hole and needs to pay up and get out of it. [2] Dealing with something as important as the municipal budget by last-minute amendments is equally irresponsible, but presumably the Nuzzi/Graboski/Malone axis didn't want exposure to extended public debate over their wholesale attack on ATH's forthright ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Nov 20, 10 4:01 PM
For once turkey i partly agree with you. i'm particularly troubled with the move to appropriate fund balance that doesnt exist and the decision not to pay off debt.
Also, its a sad day when seniors have to plead for a bus driver and a cook all the while the majority board adds a 150k position to the budget.
Fiscal conservatives....cut the community programs and add management and more government and bureaucracy. Those are not the republican values I know...
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Nov 20, 10 9:45 PM
Contrary to your opinion:
(1) Lowering taxes at a time when our residents and businesses are scraping by is mindful and responsible.
(2) ATH didn't seem to mind introducing last minute amendments and voting with the Republicans before she became Supervisor and started playing victim.
(3) It's hard to even know exactly what the deficits are when the Comptroller NEVER has a straight answer. Either way, there is still money reserved to pay them down.
The only one who will be it out ...more
By hb guy (17), Hampton Bays on Nov 25, 10 12:33 PM
ATH is the minority-get over it. We elected a Republican board and they did their job.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 20, 10 8:54 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 20, 10 8:54 PM
How does the Supervisor abstain? it's supposed to be her budget...? How ridiculous
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 21, 10 4:34 PM
2 members liked this comment
It's called "do as i say not as i do" and it can easily be seen in all that is politics. Am i the only person that saw those Bishop signs in ATH's front yard? Independent? LOL!!!
By double-D (96), southampton on Nov 30, 10 5:39 PM
she abstained because the republicans passed an amendment to spend fund balance that does not exist. it passed against the advice of the comptroller and town attorney. so being the chief fiscal officer she abstained. In essence the republicans made cuts and will fund the town with money that does not exist. sounds like trouble to me. be prepared to read more about "book keeping errors" in 2011!
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Nov 21, 10 8:05 PM
While I appreciate the detailed explination - ATH could have said no if she didn't agree to it. To abstain is weak and pathetic... this way "no one can blame her" if things go bad and if they go good no one can say she was against it. She is the CFO and should take a stance, not sit on the fence.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 10 10:36 AM
She did she voted no on that resolution. But it still passed.
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Nov 22, 10 6:07 PM
"At Friday’s meeting, Ms. Throne-Holst said she abstained from voting on the amended budget because she questioned whether or not the Town Board could appropriate money from a fund balance that was not yet in the account. "

How is that voting no?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 10 8:58 PM
The reason we are in the hole is prior Republican administrations artificially held taxes down while the bills piled up. Here we go again. What if mortgage tax revenues do not increase then what will happen to the deficits then?? The town has grown and the tax increases are needed to support it. 2.4% was very minimul what a shame. Iwonder how much over 2.4% its going to cost us when the bill comes??
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Nov 22, 10 6:28 AM
ATH abstains-what a whim we elected. Stand up for something and support your convictions.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 22, 10 9:29 AM
How is it possible Nuzzi can say anything about saving taxpayers, when he is giving his Aide an $8,000 dollar raise? What about the 1% the CSEA got, should be good enough for all!
By BigOne (22), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 10 5:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
way to go nuzzi! cut the senior center cook and a senior bus driver but give your aide an 8k raise AND and add a 150k management position! you could get 3 cooks and 3 bus drivers for that croonyism you sneaked into the budget!! you taking notes from Charlie Rangel?
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Nov 22, 10 6:10 PM
"one vacant food service position and one vacant minibus driver post."

Note the word "vacant". You like selective reading, don't you?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 10 9:00 PM
if those positions are cut, then how are they filled? if a bus driver has retired this year as part of the retirement incentive, then how is the position replaced next year when it is cut nature?
i know there is a complex thought process here nature!
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Nov 22, 10 9:08 PM
Your statement implies that Nuzzi was proposing to lay people off from the Senior Center which he was not doing.

The way the NYS retirement incentive is structured, the Town must show a certain amount of savings due to the retirements (I believe it is 50%). So they can't legally replace every one who retires - many of the positions need to be left vacant and since they won't have the $$$ to fill them it's best to get them off the budget all together. Our elected officials are bound by ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 10 9:44 PM
so you're saying the 150k replacement position is more important than replacing a cook and bus driver? or do rank and file have to be eliminated to show the mandated savings while management is replaced?
if they need money they can just appropriate more of that imaginary fund balance that doesn't exist!
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Nov 23, 10 7:49 PM
NO raise for Benincasa! Awww poor guy...
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Nov 22, 10 9:02 PM
Ms. STPD's non-vote defines her character. Not contented with being ONE of the homunculi on the Town Council, she lays claim to the title of smallest-of-the-small by doing nothing.

Perhaps she wished to be able to claim later that she "didn't vote" to vacate the positions of senior center cook and bus driver. But what else could she do? The budget retains all the perks of the STPD and one has no doubt what her instructions were from the STPD PBA.

"Oo - Oo!", as Gunther Toody, ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 23, 10 10:42 AM
That's an outrageous raise considering the bad economic times and cuts to seniors etc. Maybe his aide was involved in the golf course diaster-that would justify a reaise.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 23, 10 12:11 PM
Does the comptroller ever know what the balances are? Isn’t that her (six-figure) job?
ATH, if you don’t agree with legislation, you vote NO. Unless, of course, you realized that voting against “TAX SAVING” legislation will come back to haunt you in November…just ask Nancy Pelosi.
Just maybe, if you had to pay a property tax bill, you would re-think your tax and spend philosophy.
By lucklucy (9), Hampton Bays on Nov 24, 10 6:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
So our Southampton GOP in a "last minute" series of amendments changed the budget to what they want. Why did they wait untill the last minute? Why couldn't the public weigh in on thier changes? Were these decisions made at the party level and sprung on to the agenda before the public could comment?
$150 for another administrator while cutting 8 or so jobs on the lower levels. It will be interesting to see who gets that job.
All this is now done and it is too bad for the public.....
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Nov 26, 10 9:05 AM
1 member liked this comment
and now, this,,,,
By loading... (601), quiogue on Nov 26, 10 10:12 PM
The 18 last-minute amendments posed by Chris Nuzzi, Nancy Graboski and Jim Malone to eviscerate ATH's budget were cooked up by them in secret deliberations that they refused to share with the public, or the rest of the Board, until the day before the vote had to be taken. They remind me of the three witches in Macbeth, brewing up their evil potion in the dark of night so no one sees, chanting:

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble,
Fair Anna's budget
Is ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Nov 27, 10 8:14 PM
Every little bit helps. Perhaps Jim Malone could donate his salary as Deputy Suffolk County Clerk to the Southamton Town general fund. A year ago, he DID promise to quit that position if elected to the Town Council. (Do you suppose that he has been saving it up for the past year intending to make a grand gesture? Attaboy, Jim!)
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 29, 10 9:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
Right on! Attaboy, Jim!
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Nov 29, 10 3:59 PM
I can’t say for sure whether Nuzzi’s aide was “worth” an $8,000 raise as I do not know what kind of a job he does. Maybe the person is a super-aide. Perhaps it’s cronyism. Maybe it’s due to increased responsibilities as more people retire, leave, or get reorganized. Maybe it’s to bring the aide up to the same level as other people doing the same work. Nevertheless…..

Throne-Holst wanted to RAISE taxes and increase spending by several MILLION ...more
By BobbyH (44), Southampton/NYC on Dec 1, 10 12:34 AM