Proposed Town Budget Hits $80 Million

Of the $775,000 increase in discretionary spending in the proposed budget, nearly 73 percent of it, or $605,000, goes to the airport fund, to purchase aviation fuel, an expense more than offset by revenue from selling the fuel to airport operators. Durell Godfrey

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc issued a tentative 2019 budget last Thursday calling for a 3.73-percent spending increase, or $2.9 million, over the current budget. 

Under the proposed figure, $80.66 million, property owners would see an overall tax rate increase of 2.47 percent, except for residents of an incorporated village, who would see a 3.58 percent rise. The difference is due in part to a decrease in the highway fund tax rate for nonvillage residents, whose overall rate is projected to be $30.90 per $100 of assessed value. 

Just under $53 million of the tentative budget is to be raised through taxes, an approximately $1.6 million increase from 2018, or 3.17 percent. The budget stays under the state-established tax levy cap, which allows an increase of $1.787 million over 2018, “by balancing the need for proper funding with the desire to maintain moderate tax rates,” according to an accompanying message from Mr. Van Scoyoc. “It uses a reasonable amount of surplus to create this balance while maintaining ample reserves that meet the expectations of the credit rating community, which has assigned the town an AAA rating, based on our ample reserves, conservative budgeting, and proactive financial management practices.”

Nondiscretionary spending, such as contractual salary and benefits and debt service, accounts for 73.3 percent of the proposed increase. Salary and benefit increases, upgrades of positions, promotions, and salary adjustments account for $1.28 million. Another $861,000 is for debt service payments for projects including the new townwide emergency communications system, the water main extension in Wainscott, improvements to the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter, perimeter fencing at East Hampton Airport, and digitization of town records. Health insurance costs have also risen. 

Of the $775,000 increase in discretionary spending, nearly 73 percent of it, or $605,000, goes to the airport fund, to purchase aviation fuel. That expense, Mr. Van Scoyoc wrote, is more than offset by revenue from selling the fuel to airport operators, who pay the town’s purchase price plus 30 cents per gallon. 

An additional $125,000 would go to the town attorney’s office to pay for outside counsel retained for various legal issues. For example, the office has hired a specialist to guide it in negotiations with Deepwater Wind on its proposed South Fork Wind Farm. Also, a $109,000 increase is sought for new and renewed software maintenance contracts. That expenditure, Mr. Van Scoyoc wrote, will reduce some long-term expenses by decreasing the need for additional hardware. 

The tentative budget adds one new full-time position, for a cashier in the tax receiver’s office. 

The budget has been distributed to the town board and submitted to the town clerk. Copies are available to the public in the clerk’s office.

The board will consider the proposed budget on Tuesday morning during a work session at the Montauk Firehouse. After a final review on Oct. 16, potential changes will be incorporated. A public hearing will follow before adoption in November.