East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc finalized a tentative $80.66 million budget for 2019 last week — a spending plan that reflects an increase of 3.73 percent, or $2,903,269, over the adopted 2018 budget, but will remain below the state-mandated tax levy cap.
A total of $52,980,110 will be raised by property taxes under the tentative budget, an increase of $1.63 million over the levy raised in 2017, representing a tax rate increase of 2.47 percent outside the incorporated villages of Sag Harbor and East Hampton and a 3.58-percent increase inside the villages. For a house with a market value of $690,000, this would mean an increase of $16.36 in town taxes for homes inside the villages and $29.84 for a home with the same value outside the villages. For a home with a market value of $1.725 million, the tax increase would be $40.90 inside the incorporated villages and $74.60 for homes outside of the villages.
According to a budget message issued by Mr. Van Scoyoc, 73.3 percent of the spending increase is due to non-discretionary items including employee health insurance premiums and contractual salary increases. According to the budget, contractual salary and benefit increases, including promotions and salary adjustments, account for $1.28 million or 44.1-percent of the increase in spending. The tentative budget accounts for one new full-time position for a tax cashier in the tax receiver’s office. Three new part-time employees — in ordinance enforcement, the planning department and an additional fire marshal — are also proposed.
About 29.7 percent, or $861,044, of the spending increase is accounted for by debt service on town projects including the $8.3 million town-wide emergency communications systems upgrades; $9.44 million for the installation of water mains in Wainscott; $682,000 for recreation center improvements; $1 million for a safety perimeter fence at the East Hampton Airport and $1.425 million to digitize town records and improve efficiency in various town departments.
Of the 26.7 percent of the budget increase that is discretionary — a total of $774,596 — Mr. Van Scoyoc said $605,428 is contained in just one expenditure line: the purchase of aviation fuel in the Airport Fund. He said that expense is “more than offset” by revenue from the sale of fuel by operators at the airport that pay the town an additional $0.30 cents on the gallon.
Other increases include $125,000 for outside counsel to handle a number of legal matters, and a $109,145 increase for renewed and new software maintenance contracts.
“The town’s strong financial standing and judicious budgeting, as evidenced by this tentative budget for 2019, will enable us to meet community needs and respond to the many serious challenges faced by our town while keeping tax increases to a minimum, and below the state-mandated tax cap,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said in his budget message. “From safeguarding the environment through land preservation and water quality protection projects, to addressing erosion, flooding and other issues caused by sea level rise and climate change, protecting historic and cultural resources along with our quality of life, and providing the services and community resources that our residents need, careful fiscal planning is a key element of success. I look forward to working with our community and the board to achieve these things.”
Copies of the tentative budget are available at the clerk’s office. The town board is expected to discuss the spending plan at its October 9 work session in Montauk, with a final review of the tentative budget expected during its work session in East Hampton on October 16.