After putting all capital spending on hold while sorting through the effects of past financial mismanagement, which resulted in a $27.2 million deficit, the East Hampton Town Board considered a three-year capital spending plan on Tuesday, and is expected to approve it at a board meeting tonight. The plan calls for spending $2 million next year, and $7 million over three years.
Because of the town’s financial crisis, Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who has been working on the capital plan, said at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, “a substantial amount of capital work needed to wait, and we’re running into a situation” with regard to the 2-percent cap on tax levy increases instituted by the state this year.
According to Len Bernard, the town budget officer, however, because East Hampton Town’s tax levy decreased by 1.5 percent this year, the town may be allowed to increase taxes next year beyond the 2-percent cap, by up to 3.5 percent. Mr. Bernard said that after factoring in expected increases in fixed costs, such as employee benefits and payments on existing debt, the town has the ability to raise $800,000 more in taxes than it did this year.
If the town borrows $2 million for some of the capital projects on its list, about $300,000 for debt service would have to be added to next year’s annual budget. Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Mr. Bernard said, has asked that the remaining $500,000 be earmarked for any potential increases in that budget.
Some projects for next year are repairs to town docks, rehabilitation of sports courts, and the purchase of heavy equipment for the Highway Department, such as a street sweeper.
The capital plan is an outline, laying out a timeline for accomplishing major projects and making certain large purchases. It may be amended by the board after being adopted. The board must vote on issuing bonds for each project, and each project would be subject to permissive referendum.
Some discussion on Tuesday centered on a septic system for the Three Mile Harbor Trailer Park. The issue was whether to install a functioning system there at an approximate cost of $600,000, beginning with an allotment of $300,000 next year, or whether the work should be pushed back another year.
The town once owned the trailer park, but sold it to the 16 families who live in low-cost housing there. There are chronic problems with the septic system, which is pumped regularly to keep it running. The town has waived the fee for dumping the sewage at its scavenger waste plant, at an annual cost that was reported variously at Tuesday’s meeting at $45,000 or $50,000, or closer to $79,000. The cost fluctuated depending on the amount of sewage being pumped. Now, however, the plant is operating as a transfer station only and the town pays a septic waste carter to haul what is dropped there to another facility.
Councilwoman Theresa Quigley argued for installing the new system at the trailer park right away, citing its proximity to the head of Three Mile Harbor and noting the town’s obligation to right the situation. “It’s 16 local families that live there year round,” she said. “In my mind we sold a pig in a poke.”
Mr. Wilkinson suggested that rather than proceed with plans for the septic system, the town consider a new type of wastewater system recently outlined for the board by its designer. Councilman Stanzione noted that the town may also have to implement a stormwater management plan, which is now required of all municipalities.