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Preliminary Budget Includes Raises for Town Employees

Wed, 11/10/2021 - 19:06

East Hampton Town’s preliminary 2022 budget is $85.49 million, a slight increase over the $85.33 million tentative budget unveiled last month, the town’s budget officer said at a public hearing last Thursday.

Rebecca Hansen said that the $168,454 increase reflects Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc’s proposal, subsequent to disclosure of the tentative budget, to regrade 115 town employees, with commensurate wage increases averaging 5 percent. Most regrades would affect employees of the town’s Highway and Sanitation Departments.

This, Mr. Van Scoyoc said last month, was necessary in order to attract and retain a work force, much of which will have to commute from points west because of the availability and cost of housing in the town.

The preliminary budget also reveals a slight decrease in tax rates from those foreseen in the tentative budget, Ms. Hansen said. In the initial projection, owners of a house within East Hampton Village or Sag Harbor Village valued at $1.2 million would see a $37.31 increase in their town tax bill, while those with a similarly valued house outside a village could expect an increase of approximately $60.69. In the preliminary budget, the increases would be $36.47 and $56.92, respectively.

“After the last time we met, we took a close look at expenditures and revenues,” Ms. Hansen told the board. Spending is on target in the current fiscal year, she said, and the town is “over our projections in all of our major funds,” with more than 90 percent collected as of last Thursday. “In some cases, we are at 95 and 98 percent of our collection.” This is useful in projecting future expenditures and revenues, she said. Fiscal year 2021 was on target to end with overall surpluses in major funds, Mr. Van Scoyoc said last month.

The preliminary budget includes funding for additional police officers and an ordinance inspector, as well as for the promotion of ordinance enforcement officers.

Expenditures on employee retirement benefits matched estimates, Ms. Hansen said, so no additional budget adjustment would be needed. Just over 60 percent of expenditures in the 2022 budget are for salaries and benefits, which is not unusual given contracts and the cost of health insurance and retirement benefits, she said.

“Given all these changes we did with regrades, we are still under the tax cap,” which is “really good news,” Ms. Hansen said, referring to the law precluding local governments from adopting a budget that requires a tax levy exceeding the prior year’s by more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, unless the town board adopts a local law to overturn the tax levy limit.

An initial tax levy that stayed below the New York State-mandated tax cap by a little more than $5,000 will now stay below the cap by just under $7,300, she said.

Carole Brennan, the town clerk, read the proposed salaries of the town board, the trustees, and other officers. The supervisor is to be paid $118,075, and each of the four members of the town board $73,798. The two town justices would each be paid $85,752, and the town clerk and superintendent of highways $99,534 each.

The chair of the board of assessors would be paid $94,712 under the preliminary budget, and each of two assessors $85,524. The trustees’ clerk, or presiding officer, would be paid $24,138 per year, the two assistant clerks $20,093 each, and each of the other six trustees $8,553.

In a report dated Monday, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said that his office has completed its review of the town’s tentative 2022 budget, finding that its revenue and expenditure projections are reasonable.

While the town has not used contingency funds in the last two fiscal years, Mr. DiNapoli said, “contingency appropriations provide the town with a cushion against unforeseen events” such as the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the town authorized by law to include an appropriation for contingencies of up to 10 percent of the total budget, exclusive of certain budgeted expenditures. “Since the town can appropriate a total of as much as $7,219,371 for contingency purposes in the funds examined and a total of $249,556 was appropriated, we recommend that the town carefully consider how much it sets aside in this account.”

The budget must be adopted by next Thursday.


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