A public hearing on East Hampton Town’s 2023 preliminary budget drew few comments during the town board’s meeting last Thursday, but one from a labor union representative conveyed appreciation for a key feature of the document, the salary increases that close to 200 of its members would see.
The $90,355,049 budget is “slightly less” — by $8,506 — than that proposed in the tentative budget unveiled last month, Becky Hansen, the town’s budget officer, told the board, but increases overall spending over the current fiscal year by 5.64 percent, or $4.8 million. The preliminary budget stays under the New York State-mandated 2-percent tax levy cap by $16,688, she said.
The tax rate inside a village will increase by .27 percent, or 3.3 cents per $100 of assessed value, Ms. Hansen said, and outside a village it will increase by .48 percent, or 16 cents per $100 of assessed value. As an example, she said that a property with a market value of $1.555 million would see a $2.34 tax increase if inside a village, and an $11.18 increase if outside a village. A property with a market value of $890,000 would see a $1.34 tax increase if inside a village and $6.39 if outside a village.
The board is to vote to adopt the budget next Thursday.
Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said last month that the budget would raise wages “significantly” in order to remain competitive in attracting and retaining staff, citing inflation and the astronomical and often-prohibitive cost of housing on the South Fork. In a message accompanying the tentative budget, he wrote that he had proposed salary increases averaging between 5.5 and 10 percent for union and non-represented employees. He also announced 16 promotions, many of them within the Highway and Sanitation Departments.
A new program within the Human Services Department will be called Programs for the Aging, Mr. Van Scoyoc wrote. It will replace adult day care “and focus on presenting wellness, education, and advocacy service programs designed to meet the needs of our 60-and-over community.”
Two new full-time police officers, an ordinance enforcement officer, two ordinance inspectors, and an additional animal control officer will also be added, the supervisor wrote. The town will also add a new full-time maintenance mechanic position. Ms. Hansen said at the meeting that a new full-time position for harbormaster was added to Marine Patrol, and additional money was earmarked for printing and mailing.
The budget will assist community organizations including the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, I-Tri, the Family Service League, the Retreat, and the South Fork Community Health Initiative, as well as food pantries. Funding for LTV, to assist its ongoing capital improvements, will increase, and the Hampton Hopper bus shuttle service will also see continued funding.
As in 2021, the town is on target to end the current fiscal year with overall surpluses in major funds, Mr. Van Scoyoc wrote. “The town’s healthy fund balances continue to allow us to meet the unexpected needs that may arise during the year.” Healthy fund balances were in part due to “the continued robust real estate market, with monies from the mortgage recording tax and building permits exceeding budgeted amounts.”
Calling into the meeting, Jim Bennett of the Civil Services Employees Association union told the board that “We support this budget and the things that you’ve done for town employees,” calling it a move “in the right direction to help us out so we can afford to live here. We’ve got more work to do, but it feels good to know that we can all work together for better things.”
The current C.S.E.A. contract will expire at the end of next year. After the meeting, Mr. Bennett told The Star that “the union is in dire need of this to pass” as the cost of housing “has gotten way out of hand out here.” The preliminary budget’s salary increase for employees “makes us feel good about negotiating our contract that expires at the end of 2023,” he said.