Southampton Taxes Down, Spending Up

The Southampton Town Board passed a $99.4 million budget for 2018, though it lacked support from one board member.

Approved in a 4-to-1 vote, the 2018 budget reduces the tax rate by about 1 percent, in part because assessed valuations have grown. The tax rate has been reduced for the second straight year. The budget also remains below the state mandated tax cap.

“I’m proud to deliver a budget that continues to reduce taxes while maintaining and improving vital services for our residents,” said Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

The budget includes a 5-percent increase in spending. The budget contains funding for all current programs, allows for contractual and promotional salary increases, and funds one additional full-time code enforcement officer.

Councilwoman Christine Scalera said by phone yesterday that the increase in spending and the increase in the tax levy were too high to get her support. The 2018 budget’s tax levy is about $64 million, an increase of approximately 4.5 percent over the $61.3 million tax levy in the 2017 fiscal year.

“The tax levy is ever-increasing. This is a result of our excessive spending. It is not sustainable over time,” Ms. Scalera said, adding that over the last two years there has been about a 9-percent increase in spending.

While everyone is focused on the tax rate decreasing — six-tenths of 1 percent this year — “the bottom is going to fall out,” she said. “It’s going to be problematic.” The tax rate for 2018 will be $1.389 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Ms. Scalera has been concerned since the supervisor made a deal with the Civil Service Employees Association’s bargaining unit outside of regular contract negotiations, and is unsettled that the town has burdened itself with what she terms “reoccurring and unsustainable costs.”

She said part of the reason the town was able to get an AAA rating from both bonding agencies was because it had maintained strong control over employee costs over the past eight years.

Councilman Stan Glinka, a Republican who was not re-elected earlier this month, supported the budget, but said he hoped the board would keep fiscal responsibility a top priority as it moves forward without him. He said he is worried the town is “top-heavy in management here,” even as staffing continues to be an issue, particularly in code enforcement, the Building Department, and the trustee’s offices.

Earlier this year, the town board hired Steven Troyd for the newly created position of town code compliance and emergency management administrator. Mr. Glinka had voted against the creation of the position.

“Sometimes you need more boots on the ground, whether it’s internally or externally, out in the field, over higher-level administrative positions,” Mr. Glinka said.

The town board also approved an $8.6 million capital budget, an increase of approximate $1.5 million over the current year, according to Leonard Marchese, the town comptroller. The capital budget includes funding for an upgrade to the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning at Town Hall, as well as road improvements and upgrades to the police communications and dispatch facilities, among other things.

In other town news, councilman-elect Tommy John Schiavoni announced this week that he will resign from the Sag Harbor School Board. His last meeting as a member of the school board will be on Dec. 18. He is also a member of the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals, but will no longer serve once he takes office as a councilman in early January.