Minimal Increases in 2017-18 Budget

With the new fiscal year beginning on Aug. 1, the East Hampton Village Board presented a tentative 2017-18 budget at its work session last Thursday. It will hold a public hearing on the budget on June 1 at the Emergency Services Building.

The $21.4 million plan has a 1.78-percent spending increase of $372,000. Increases in revenue and taxes also would be minimal, with the tax rate to rise by .11 percent, to $28.89 per $100 of assessed value, and property tax revenue to go up by 1.1 percent, or $137,002. The tax rate increase is under the tax cap, Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said. “I repeat, that’s under the tax cap, which is important.”

As in the current budget, the spending increase is largely a consequence of health insurance premiums, which the mayor said are estimated to rise by 10 percent. A new contract for annual crosswalk maintenance and vehicle upgrades also account for the spending increase. In addition, the village is increasing the amount it budgets for the Length of Service Award Program, which provides a stipend to volunteer firefighters and ambulance personnel.

Decreases in the tentative budget are attributed to lower contributions to the state retirement system — a decrease of $100,720 — as well as lower fuel and utility costs, and equipment purchases made during the current fiscal year. According to the mayor, more long-term savings will be realized when energy-efficient heating systems are installed at Village Hall and another municipal building. 

The budget includes reserves for future purchases for the East Hampton Fire Department, the ambulance corps, and Department of Public Works.

Nontax revenues show an increase of 3 percent, or $235,506. The $137,000 increase in non-property tax revenue, “is largely accounted for by a fee increase in the nonresident beach permits,” the mayor said, as well as an increase in the number sold. Nonresident permits to park at the village’s five beaches — Georgica, Main, Wiborg’s, Egypt, and Two Mile Hollow — now cost $400, up from $375, and the number of available nonresident parking permits went from 3,000 to 3,100.

“Finally, and most importantly,” the mayor said, “the Village of East Hampton has been fortunate to be able to maintain its healthy financial outlook and a very modest debt burden. We strive to provide the best services to our residents while maintaining an appropriate level of spending and modest revenue increases.”

Going on, he said, the board “tried very diligently to maintain the purse strings of village government as we would with our households: moving ahead, taking care of our infrastructure and our employee base, and trying to do the very best we can to deliver the best product back to the residents we serve. Now it’s up to everyone.”

Also at the meeting, the mayor discussed the drainage courses, a.k.a. bioswales, designed to trap pollutants and silt from surface runoff at the flagpole and across from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. In April, Tony Piazza, of Piazza Horticultural, a Southampton firm, recommended planting a “ribbon” of native vegetation to connect them. A crew from Piazza Horticultural has now completed the work.

“It’s taken a long time in appearing, but this is the very first step on a matter of water quality that your board of trustees feels very strongly about,” Mayor Rickenbach said. He also said that the board would soon seek to dredge Town Pond to remove the thick sediment on the bottom. “We are in partnership with the Town of East Hampton and their water quality initiatives,” the mayor said.

The mayor also spoke of the street fair coming up on May 20 on Newtown Lane, which has been organized by the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce. “This is a first-ever event, brand-new to us, brand-new to the chamber, and brand-new to the community. We hope that it will be well received and we can build on that at a future time. We think it’s the nice thing and the right thing to do.”