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Better Wages Are a Focus in Town Budget

Thu, 09/22/2022 - 10:21
East Hampton Town is not immune to the staffing shortages that stressed many service businesses this year: There are 34 open positions in the town government.
Durell Godfrey

East Hampton Town’s tentative 2023 budget is set to be publicly unveiled on Wednesday.

The budget will be the focus of town board work sessions on Oct. 4 and Oct. 11. It is scheduled for adoption on Nov. 17, and by New York State law must be adopted by Nov. 20.

To date, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said, the 2023 budget “has us squeaking under the 2-percent tax cap,” a reference 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.

“We’re continuing to work on it,” he said at the town board’s meeting on Tuesday. “My focus has been on really addressing wages within the town to invest in our human resources, our staff, to bring them up to a more competitive level.” The town, he said, “has fallen a bit behind other municipalities” in employee salaries.

The town is not immune to the staffing shortages that stressed many service businesses this year: There are 34 open positions in the town government, Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez noted at the same meeting, with the stratospheric cost of housing in the town being among the causes.

“My primary focus this year will be to address those wages,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said, adding that “there will be significant changes coming.” Wage increases, additional hires, and merit pay are in store, he said. There will be several promotions and extraordinary service awards, he said, and new positions across departments including Human Resources, Animal Control, Ordinance Enforcement, the Police Department, the Land Acquisition and Management Department, and the administrative adjudication bureau.

He referred to inflation and a significant rise in the cost of regularly purchased supplies, but also to “better than projected revenues in some areas,” particularly building permits and mortgage taxes. These are “not sources you can rely upon year to year” due to fluctuations, but will nonetheless offset costs, he said, pointing to “very robust balances in our various funds.”

The town is “incredibly fortunate with so many dedicated employees,” he said, and it is “important that we recognize the value of them on many levels, and make sure they’re compensated in a way that’s appropriate and competitive.”

The budget will also assist a variety of community organizations, he said, increasing their allocations in some cases.

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