East Hampton Town’s tentative budget for 2020, unveiled on Tuesday, calls for $81.87 million of spending, representing an overall increase of about 1.42 percent. If adopted as is, the budget would remain slightly under the New York State-mandated tax levy cap.
Under the tentative budget, $54.6 million would be raised by property tax revenue, a 3.2-percent increase over the 2019 adopted budget. Residents living outside the incorporated villages of East Hampton and Sag Harbor would see a tax rate increase of 2.29 percent, to $31.54 per $100 of assessed value, while those inside an incorporated village would see a town tax increase of 1.79 percent, to $12.02 per $100 of assessed value.
As an example, according to Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc’s budget message, a house outside a village with an assessed value of $7,000, or a $1.2 million market value, would see a tax increase of $49.42. A house inside a village with the same assessed value would see a town tax increase of about $14.84.
Salaries and employee benefits constitute around 60 percent of expenditures in the proposed budget, or $48.3 million, with townwide employee benefits projected at $19 million.
The tentative budget eliminates the position of town engineer and replaces it with a new planner. The town has spent more than $1.2 million on outside engineers and architects since 2016, Mr. Van Scoyoc’s budget message states, as engineering has become project-oriented and the need for in-house engineering staff funded by the operating budget has diminished “to the point where the function has become more of a planning responsibility with limited work being performed on actual engineering tasks.”
The tentative budget creates one new carpenter position in the Buildings and Grounds Department, with a cost in salary and benefits of $95,291. It also funds one new employee in the Planning Department at a total cost of about $101,000 and adds a new part-time position of greeter, to be stationed in the Town Hall atrium during the busier times of the day and seasons, at $20,000.
An additional $25,880 has been added for part-time help in the Parks Department, $48,000 for additional part-time help in the Recreation Department, and a total of $45,500 for higher hourly rates for beginning lifeguards and seasonal workers in the tax receiver’s office.
New to the budget in its tentative iteration is a $13,000 appropriation for East End Hospice, and $25,000 to upgrade obsolete standard-definition broadcast equipment used by LTV at Town Hall to improve transmission quality of town board meetings and other events in the main meeting room.
Debt service payments rise by around $160,000, to around $14.2 million, or 17.3 percent of the overall tentative budget. These primarily reflect projects including replacement and upgrading of the town’s emergency communications system and repair and reconstruction of bulkheads. The town’s indebtedness fell below $100 million at the end of 2018 for the first time since 2003, according to the supervisor’s budget message, and decreases by more than $11 million from the end of the 2013 fiscal year.
Restoration of Second House in Montauk, the pavilion at the former Boys and Girls Harbor campsite on Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton, land acquisition for affordable housing, and improvements for compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act account for another $2.86 million in the tentative budget.
The budget stays below the state-mandated tax cap “by balancing the need for adequate funding in many different areas with the desire to maintain moderate tax rates,” the supervisor’s budget message says. “It uses a reasonable amount of the surplus that has accumulated over the last several years to create this balance while maintaining ample reserves moving forward to meet town needs and the expectations of the credit rating community, which assigned the town a AAA rating several years ago based partially on our strong reserves, conservative budgeting, and proactive financial management practices.” Moody’s Investors Service affirmed the Town’s AAA rating in August as part of the town’s yearly debt sale to fund capital projects.
The town board will review the budget this month, and a public hearing on the final proposed budget is to be held on Nov. 7. According to state law, adoption of a 2020 budget will happen before Nov. 20.