Mayor Sandra Schroeder last week unveiled a tentative spending plan for the village of Sag Harbor’s fiscal year beginning June 1 that totals $11,261,290, up 3.28 percent or $357,276 from the current budget.
The proposal does not include debt service for the restoration of Long Wharf, which would have to be added if the board elects to begin that work next fall, Mayor Schroeder said as she met with department heads and the Village Board to review the spending plan at a work session on February 20.
The village, hoping to win a major state grant, had planned to begin the $3-million Long Wharf project in late 2018 but had to postpone it when the village did not receive an expected $2.5 million in state funding.
As it currently stands, the largest single increase in the spending plan is a 793-percent hike from $14,750 to $131,712 for assessment services provided by the Town of East Hampton, which has upgraded its computer system and is charging Sag Harbor a pro-rated share of the cost.
“It has quite an impact on our budget,” Mayor Schroeder said, “but it is less expensive than hiring a group of people to be our assessors and starting our own assessment program. This is a lot less money.”
Just in case the final budget will force the village to pierce the state’s 2-percent limit on annual tax increases, the board voted 5-0 to set a public hearing for March 12 on a proposed local law that would allow the village to pierce the cap. “That amounts to being prepared,” the mayor commented.
Under state deadlines, a final budget proposal must be presented at a public hearing no later than April 15 and it must be adopted with any amendments by May 1.
During the budget session, the board discussed the possibility of adding a full-time paid Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or paramedic to replace three part-timers who supplement the 29 volunteers of the village ambulance corps. That would add up to $40,000 in medical and other benefits to the budget that part-timers don’t receive, Deborah O’Brien, the president of the ambulance corps, told the board.
She said that Sag Harbor is the only corps in the region without a full-time paid professional EMT or paramedic on staff and that the corps has been losing part-timers to full-time jobs elsewhere. She said she had asked that the budget include funding to hire a full-timer but the spending plan, as presented on February 20, did not include it, showing an increase of only $980 in the ambulance corps budget to $496,240, a rise of about two-tenths of 1 percent.
The budget proposal calls for increasing trustee salaries by $4,800 to $48,000, to a total of $12,000 for each of the four trustees. The mayor’s salary would rise $2,000 to $26,000. “Because we have a treasurer now,” the mayor said, referring to Rhonda Meserole, the budget proposal includes an increase of $18,510 to pay her salary.
Other major cost increases, if approved, would include a 22-percent hike in spending for Village Hall repairs and its security system from $41,000 to $50,000; repairs and utility costs at the central garage building, up 18 percent from $11,300 to $13,000; and for “judgments and claims,” up an expected $8,000 or 67 percent from $12,000 to $20,000.
Except for undistributed employee benefits, which are expected to total $3,292,016, up 2 percent, the largest single line in the budget is the police department budget, which will drop 2 percent to $2,178,585 because of a savings of almost $120,000 in salaries “due to the attrition of senior officers and the influx of new officers,” Chief Austin J. McGuire wrote in a budget letter to the board.
In his budget proposal, he is asking for an additional officer for a total of 12. “Of East End villages with police departments,” he wrote, “we are geographically the smallest. But we are second only to Southampton Village in calls for service and full-time population,” even with the fewest number of police officers in the region.
The budget calls for an additional matron duty at the village jail costing $6,500, up 44 percent from $4,500.
The budget line for fire prevention shows an increase of 13 percent, up $54,230 to $466,705. Most of that is for a new chief’s car, which the mayor said will cover “all the bells and whistles” such as decals and lights, which have turned out to be extra costs in past purchases.
Second Assistant Fire Chief Kevin O’Brien told the board he also “was hoping” to have an “additional person” to act as a duty captain to help answer the department’s well over 500 annual calls.
“That’s unreal,” the mayor said of the workload.
A 14-percent increase in the building department’s “safety inspection/code enforcement” budget to $272,719 is the result of the addition of a full-time person at a salary of $35,363. A part-time position, meanwhile, will lose $6,000 in wages, with its budget line dropping from $16,000 to $10,000.
The highway department shows an increase of 7 percent to $870,082, including $35,000 for a new vehicle and $10,000 in higher paving costs. The harbors and docks budget includes a 10-percent increase to $379,400, including an additional $10,000 for pump-out services for the increasing level of boat traffic in the harbor, Trustee Ken O’Donnell said. An additional $5,000 to $50,000 is budgeted for repairs.
Debt service, including bonds, bond anticipation notes and installment debt is expected to total $391,760, a decrease of $86,230 or 18 percent.