In a split vote on Tuesday, the East Hampton Town Board’s Republican majority approved a $69.4 million budget for 2014 over objections from the board’s two Democrats that an almost $500,000 reduction in the amount budgeted for employee health insurance, proferred by Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, could create a budget shortage next year.
The budget had originally included enough in the health insurance line to cover a 10-percent increase in its costs next year, a figure calculated by the New York State Health Insurance Program. The exact increase for next year has not yet been determined, and board members battled over a prudent amount.
Mr. Wilkinson advocated decreasing the allocation to cover only a 5-percent increase, citing NYSHIP figures that estimated the projected increase at between 2 and 6.8 percent.
However, Len Bernard, the town budget officer, who has been tapped by incoming Supervisor Larry Cantwell to continue in that role, cautioned that there was no guarantee that the increase would be at the low end, or within the estimate. He advised budgeting for at least a 7-percent increase.
And Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, along with Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, advocated a “conservative” approach, keeping the figure as is. Should the health insurance money not all be needed next year, they said, the remainder could be set aside to help cover costs the following year.
Mr. Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley balked at collecting any amount above what might be needed, accusing Mr. Van Scoyoc of seeking to create a “slush fund.” Councilman Dominick Stanzione voted with Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Quigley to adopt the budget as amended.