Supervisor Releases 2018 Budget With Modest Tax Increases

Supervisor Larry Cantwell released the 2018 proposed budget, his last before leaving office at the end of the year. Morgan McGivern

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell released a tentative $77.7 million budget for 2018 on Friday, which is a 3.5-percent increase over this year's spending plan and would result in increases in the tax rate of less than 1.5 percent.

 The proposed tax increases remain below the New York State-imposed cap. If the budget is approved it would result in a 1.42-percent increase in the tax rate for most town property owners, and a 1.23-percent increase for residents of incorporated villages.

The budget includes a 6-percent increase for law enforcement and public safety, as well as an increase in programs for the elderly and for transportation. In a budget message, Mr. Cantwell noted that the town had recovered from a $28 million deficit in 2009 and now estimates that it will have a $34 million surplus at the end of this year. The budget allocates $2 million of that surplus to the town's community housing opportunity fund for affordable housing and $1.5 million for other future capital projects, such as the construction of a new senior citizens center or sand replenishment on the beaches.

Mr. Cantwell, in his message, attributes the budget increases to three major factors: an increase in employee salaries of almost $1 million, attendant increases in health benefit premiums, also of approximately $1 million, and payments next year on existing debt that will total $785,510.

The salary increases, he noted, result from 2-to-3-percent raises under union contracts, along with the addition of three full-time employees: an account clerk at the East Hampton Airport, an officer for the Marine Patrol division of the Police Department, and a Building Department clerk to work on digitizing town records.

The town has reduced its debt by $20 million over four years, earning it a Aaa credit rating from Moody's Investors Service, the highest it awards, and a first-time achievement.

The town board will review the tentative budget, and revisions may be made before the public is invited to comment at a hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. A vote to adopt the 2018 budget will take place in November.