DAN'S PAPERS, November 20, 2009 Page 16 www.danshamptons.com
Facing the Truth about Town Budgets By T.J. Clemente The towns of Southampton and East Hampton are putting the finishing touches on their 2010 budgets by addressing the cold hard truth that there just isn’t enough money to go around. In Southampton, in addition to maintaining the 5% cap on town tax, chopping off 40 town jobs and scrutinizing all expenditures moving forward, supervisor-elect Anna Throne-Holst promises a second reduction in town payroll by perhaps $6 million (mainly through forced attrition) that will reduce the 600-employee Southampton town government by 20%. Also in the plan is “persuading” as many as six department heads that it’s time to “move on.” Due to the cap on the town tax, set at 5%, Southampton is forced to cut services, jobs and programs to balance its budget, as is required by state law. However, in East Hampton there is no such cap, thus the 2009 20% tax increase and 2010’s 10% increase. Although acting supervisor Pete Hammerle and fellow Board member Julia Prince reportedly wanted to explore reducing the number of town employees, lame-duck board members Brad Loewen and Pat Mansir refused to cooperate, instead going along with cuts in many areas, including the discontinuation of the town’s support of non-profit organizations that benefit residents, such as “Project Most.” An aide to the supervisor’s office said that “Project Most” money was cut because the “board believes the town has an after school program in place that ‘Project Most’ competes with.” Hammerle is preparing a list of employees not under town
contract, whom supervisor-elect William Wilkinson can dismiss, replace or eliminate. In what will be a sea change in how the town board does business, Wilkinson has gone the length to hire two $100,000-plus salaried consultants to advise him on how to navigate the maze of financial mismanagement. Len Bernard (Jay Schneiderman’s former budget expert) and Don Cirillo will join Team Wilkinson January 1. Hopefully they’ll be worth the six figures they’re being paid to help the financially seasoned supervisor-elect turn around the negative reputation the Town of East Hampton acquired during the latter part of the McGintee years. With the Republican Party having a majority on the board starting in January, and with all three newly elected Republicans (Supervisor Wilkinson, Councilmen Theresa Koncelik Quigley and Dominick Stanzione) lacking prior Town of East Hampton government experience, this move is wise. No doubt, during this crisis, prudent advice will be needed. It gets a bit more complicated in Southampton. supervisor-elect Throne-Holst will preside over a board dominated at first by Republicans 3-1 until a special election is held to replace her seat as she moves to the supervisor’s chair. Hoping to work together with her fellow board members, Throne-Holst will have a partisan campaign going on for her seat, with the possibility of current Supervisor Linda Kabot on the ballot for the vacated board seat. Somehow Throne-Holst, who is talking to all department heads one-on-one to see where the land lies, is counting on the board
to assist her in correcting the mistakes of the past without partisanship. She hopes the era of polarization can end in a healing process tempered by the severity of the present financial crisis. Hopefully everything won’t end up in a bickering “power struggle,” in an attempt to embarrass the new supervisor and make her seem ineffective and irrelevant. Having the special election will not help heal some of the bitterness of the last election. Democratic Party sources are hopeful that their new star, former federal prosecutor Bridget Fleming, will once again run, following her promising campaign for Councilwoman on November 3. It was an impressive run, considering that Fleming was relatively unknown just eight months ago. Concerning town expenditures in her tenure, Throne-Holst has vowed that no money will ever be spent that isn’t already in place. She promises to uncover the full extent of the past deficits, and believes that correcting the process that lead to their creation is in her realm of expertise. Both incumbent Councilman Chris Nuzzi and newly elected Councilman James Malone pledged in the campaign to be responsible and to, in effect, “attempt to do more with less.” That will be the challenge to both town boards. One thing is for sure: although the enacted 2010 town budgets with their tax increases are frozen in place, how the town spends the budgeted money can be altered in the fiscal year. The new town governments will be able to change things on the fly and even make cost-saving cuts.
Published on Nov 20, 2009
Published on Nov 20, 2009
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