Marcos Baladron, the East Hampton Village administrator, unveiled the village’s nearly $28 million 2024 budget at last Friday’s village board meeting. While budgets are never truly exciting, residents can be pleased that for the second year in a row taxes will be lower — for the first time in the village’s history, according to Mr. Baladron.
In a letter to the board, he wrote, “In developing a fiscally responsible municipal budget, it’s my own personal philosophy that government should ask for what it needs, and nothing more.”
Mr. Baladron credits this “zero-based strategy” philosophy for the tax cut.
Increased revenues of just over $2 million don’t hurt either. Approximately 65 percent of the increase comes from new agreements between the village and the town, for emergency services such as fire, ambulance, and dispatching.
“There’s a cost to these things,” said Mr. Baladron. “When I started, it wasn’t clear how we were allocating the expense for our services to the town. Anything that would be needed to protect those districts, like the new fire trucks, I wrapped into the new number.”
It was a 33-percent increase over what the town paid previously. That more than offset the $308,000 increase in paid E.M.S. personnel, he said, due partly to numerous volunteers resigning after the village board created the controversial Department of Emergency Medical Services in April.
Over all, the village plans to spend $118,500 on part-time paramedics this year, and $244,608 on part-time E.M.T.s. Three full-time paramedics cost $211,838 combined, and one full-time E.M.T. is at present employed for $58,240. The budget holds open a slot for another full-time E.M.T. at the same rate.
The fire department’s personnel services ballooned, tripling to $390,000. A good chunk, $165,000, comes from the newly created role of fire and emergency medical services administrator, filled by Gerry Turza, a longtime dispatcher.
Other big revenue increases came from $232,000 in mortgage tax revenue, which is a market-driven number, and another $126,125 from added beach revenues, due largely to the increased cost of village beach-parking passes.
However, personnel costs at the Georgica, Main, and Two Mile Hollow beaches rose roughly $165,000. Drew Smith, the head lifeguard, makes nearly $80,000 a year. The 38 Main Beach lifeguards account for another $303,000 line item.
“There’s a national lifeguard shortage,” said Mr. Baladron. “Drew has a lot of people wanting to work at the village beaches now. We want to allocate enough resources to keep our guards.”
After revising its fee structure, the village pulled in an extra $250,000 in building permits, an increase of 25 percent over last year.
The East Hampton Village Foundation, by providing $1.2 million for the Phase 1A Herrick Park renovations, also kept the village in the black. Mr. Baladron was happy to report that the park will be open by Memorial Day.
The village spends roughly $2 million annually on retirement packages — 60 percent of it going to retired police officers — and over $4 million on employee medical insurance. Police salaries cost over $5 million. Altogether, law enforcement accounts for 20 percent of the total budget.
A smaller line item, for water quality, rose 300 percent this year, to $30,000. Taxpayers can see the result of that increase in the form of Department of Public Works employees scooping algae from Town Pond.
A public hearing on the budget, which is tentative until the board passes it, will be held on June 16, at 11 a.m.