The East Hampton Town Board unanimously approved an $81.9 million operating budget for 2020 that will hike the tax rate for residents by around 2 percent.
Spending will go up about 2.1 percent, but the amount to be raised by taxes, $54,523,947, is up by slightly less than 3.18 percent. Because of credits for under-budgeting last year and other allowances, the town will still be just below the state-mandated cap on tax levy increases of 2 percent.
The budget adopted on Tuesday afternoon included only a few minor changes to a spending plan introduced by Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc in September.
Two employees, a deputy tax receiver and a deputy clerk, got pay increases of about $3,500 and $5,000, respectively. An additional $20,000 was put into the budget for contracted engineering services, since the budget eliminates the position of town engineer.
The budget also eliminates a proposed “greeter” who was to be stationed in the entryway of Town Hall to direct visitors. The $25,000 salary is dropped from the adopted budget.
About $67,500 was added to the budget for chargebacks for billings from the town’s independent special funds, like the airport and Highway Department.
In all, the budget increased by about $108,000.
The elimination of the $94,000 in base salary for a town engineer’s position had drawn some criticism from the community. Some residents have approached the board in recent weeks with concerns about the loss of institutional knowledge and understanding of some of the town’s more esoteric land-use issues, like old filed maps and urban renewal roads, that could result from not having Tom Talmage on duty in town offices.
Mr. Talmage, the first full-time engineer employed by the town, himself lamented the elimination of the position after 18 years at Town Hall as something that will inconvenience town planners. “I’m always here for them and I’m here for the public,” he said in his office on Monday.
“I think it’s a mistake,” he added, “but I’m not fighting it.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc has said he saw having a full-time engineer as unnecessary now that large subdivisions are rare and contracted engineers are used for the planning of most large-scale projects.
In the weeks after the budget was introduced, some other Town Board members had voiced a desire to restore the engineer’s post in the 2020 budget, but no objections were raised on Tuesday prior to the board’s vote.