E.H. Town Budget Approved

    The East Hampton Town Board unanimously adopted the 2013 budget at a meeting last Thursday night, calling for $69 million in spending next year, an increase of just over 5 percent from 2012.
    The final budget, which includes several majority-approved additions to Supervisor Bill Wilkinson’s originally proposed budget, will raise tax rates for most East Hampton residents by 4.7 percent, at a rate of $27.91 per $100 of assessed value, and result in a 1.4-percent decrease for residents of the incorporated villages of East Hampton and Sag Harbor, for a rate of $10.96 per $100 of assessed value.
    Following a public hearing and board discussion of the supervisor’s tentative budget, the final spending plan includes a $25,000 increase of a grant to Project MOST, an after-school program in East Hampton in Springs, to a total of $35,000, and includes $40,000 to fund the first phase of a deer management plan, calling for a population survey of the herd.
    The budget also includes $26,000 to cover salary and benefits for the addition of a part-time code enforcement officer. Board members also agreed to add a part-time position for a land steward at a $30,000 salary, and to shift the entire salary for Andy Gaites, a land management department staffer, to the community preservation fund stewardship budget, paid for by the proceeds of a 2-percent real estate transfer tax. The result of that change reduced anticipated spending in the town’s general budget by $30,000.
    Under the terms of the town’s deficit financing plan, through which the New York State Legislature granted approval to issue up to $30 million in bonds to cover budget shortfalls under a former administration from prior years, the town is required to submit its proposed annual budgets to the state comptroller for review.
    In a letter dated Nov. 1, the comptroller’s office found that the “significant revenue and expenditure projections in the tentative budget are reasonable” in the 2013 budget.
    The letter also reviewed whether town officials had acted on previous recommendations made by the comptroller in 2012.
    Last year, the comptroller had suggested increasing a contingency appropriation, or money set aside for unforeseen events. The 2012 budget contained $530,000 for contingencies. This year, the amount was increased to $560,000, the comptroller’s letter said.
    The comptroller also said that the 2012 budget included estimated revenues of $250,000 from the sale of town property, but, the letter said, when the state officials reviewed the proposed budget last year, “town officials could not provide documentation to show that this revenue would be realized in 2012.”
    The expected revenue remained in the budget, the comptroller’s office said in the letter, “although we cautioned town officials regarding the attainability of this estimated revenue.” As of September, the year-to-date and projected revenue from property sales totaled $40,000, creating a $210,000 shortfall in the 2012 fiscal year.
    According to the comptroller’s office, East Hampton Town’s 2013 budget complies with a state law limiting increases in the annual tax levy to 2 percent each year. East Hampton’s leeway was larger than that this year, according to a state formula, because of tax levels in previous years.