East Hampton Budget and Amagansett Hamlet Study Discussed

East Hampton Town Hall.

The East Hampton Town Board agreed to make one small change to Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc’s preliminary $80.7-million budget proposal for 2019 and heard six speakers comment on the proposed Amagansett business district hamlet study update at a busy meeting on Thursday, November 1. They included Jim MacMillan, chairman of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee, who said his panel liked Amagansett “just the way it is” and “enjoy being the un-Hamptons hamlet left.”

After a presentation by Paul Rogers and his daughter Phoebe seeking additional funding for the East End Special Players, the board agreed to increase its budget line for the group from $10,000 to $15,000. Mr. Rogers is president of the group’s board of directors and Phoebe is a veteran participant in the program.

Founded 29 years ago, the group provides recreational and social opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. It emphasizes theatre productions and weekly gatherings on Saturdays. Mr. Rogers said the town provided $29,000 annually until the recession struck in 2008, after which the town reduced its funding to $10,000.

Reflecting about $56,000 in additional expenditures that were added by the board after a public hearing last month on Mr. Van Scoyoc’s tentative budget plan, which was unveiled in late September, the preliminary budget will become a final proposal after the additional $5,000 is added, which budget director Len Bernard said would increase spending and the projected tax rate “microscopically.” It will be the subject of a public hearing on November 15 and must be adopted by November 20.

Mr. Bernard told the board that the budget reflects a 3.8-percent increase in spending over 2018. If expenses are deducted for the town-owned airport, which is self-funding and collects no property tax revenues, the budget increase is 2.8 percent, he said. The tax levy to support the budget will fall $86,00 below the state-imposed 2-percent cap on annual tax increases, Mr. Bernard told the board.

The budget includes about $2.4 million in surplus funds on the revenue side, which Mr. Bernard said is “about 2.9 percent of all our revenues,” which he called a reasonable amount; he added, “We retain a reasonable amount of surplus,” which he said helps the town maintain its triple A bond rating.

Before the board agreed to add $5,000 for the Special Players, the budget’s anticipated town tax rate for properties outside the incorporated village of East Hampton was expected to rise 2.33 percent and 3.3 percent for properties within the village, Mr. Bernard said.

The state comptroller annually reviews East Hampton’s budget proposal because the town is still paying back deficit financing set up nine years ago under the state’s oversight, when major shortfalls were discovered during the McGintee administration. Mr. Bernard said the comptroller had found all the budget plan’s anticipated expenses and revenues to be reasonable.

Budgeted salaries for elected officials, as read aloud by the town clerk, are $111,265 for the supervisor; $69,541 for town councilpersons; $80,806 for town justices; $93,793 for the town clerk; $93,793 for the highway superintendent; $89,250 for the chairman of the board of assessment review; $80,591 for the town assessors; $23,201 for the clerk of the Town Trustees; $18,934 for the assistant trustee clerk; and $8,060 for the Trustees.

In his comments to the board about the proposed Amagansett Hamlet Study update, Mr. MacMillan said the Amagansett CAC opposed the study’s proposed creation of an Amagansett East Business Overlay District. Many brick and mortar stores are vacant because of online competition, he said, “and we don’t need more.” The CAC also opposed allowing “mixed use structures” in the open area in front of the Amagansett IGA, he said. “There is no need for that or chain stores in our hamlet,” he added.

The CAC opposed adding five parcels that contain residential structures bordering the municipal parking lot to the historic district, Mr. MacMillan said, and it opposed allowing second-story apartments above retail stores on Main Street because of septic and traffic concerns.

Among other speakers, Averill Geis urged the board to make Bluff Road one-way westbound and Town Lane one-way westbound to east summer congestion in the Amagansett business district, where “trying to get through the traffic … is one of the worst things you can imagine.”