Sag Harbor Village Spending Creeps Upward in Latest Budget Draft

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Increases in salaries for justice court staff and money to boost drainage engineering and sidewalk repairs have driven up Sag Harbor Village’s proposed 2019-2020 budget since a first draft was initially presented last month.

The budget is up from $11.26 million in the first draft introduced in February to $11.27 million, presented Wednesday, March 20, during a village budget workshop. The updated figure is a 3.36-percent increase, or $366,172, over the current year’s budget of $10.9 million.

So far, according to village treasurer Rhonda Meserole, the draft spending plan fits within the state-mandated cap on tax levy increases. However, she explained Wednesday, the village has not received final assessment numbers from Southampton Town, which will impact the percentage by which the village can increase its tax levy.

The village board will hold a public hearing Friday, March 29 at 4 p.m. to discuss the potential for raising the tax levy above the state limit. Ms. Meserole described the hearing as a “just in case” formality.

In the second-draft budget, the largest increase remains a 793-percent jump from $14,750 to $131,712 for assessment services provided by East Hampton Town related to computer upgrades. Multiple municipalities that East Hampton serves are shouldering part of that cost. Another increase included $10,000 more in funding for area youth programs. This would restore the funding that was cut from $10,500 in previous years down to $500 in 2018-2019.

But not much has changed since February. Spending on Sag Harbor Justice Court would rise 2 percent to $265,364, with the increase attributed to a $5,795 raise in salaries for its various staff members. Ms. Meserole added $7,500 for drainage engineering and $5,000 more for concrete and sidewalk repairs.

“Did we put in a small amount for Powerball tickets?” village trustee James Larocca joked at one point.

Mayor Sandra Schroeder identified an area that appeared to be under-funded — an insurance line that looks like it will come up about $3,500 short this year. The budget draft showed $35,000, consistent with this year. Ms. Schroeder asked to up that to $39,000.

Absent from the second-draft budget was a full-time ambulance corps emergency medical technician, which a representative of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps had pitched in February. Ms. Schroeder said the salary and benefits might be cost prohibitive.

“I’m thinking about the people living on Social Security,” she said.

Trustee Tom Gardella, a former Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department chief, said before the village finalizes the budget, he would like to know more specifics about how much it would cost to add one full-time ambulance crewmember to the budget.

Following the meeting, Ms. Schroeder said the budget is close to completion “unless we take big things out.” She said none of the budget items “are more important than the other.”

“It’s not like it’s a Christmas wish list,” she said. “It’s not free. It’s all going up.”

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