Spending Up, Tax Rate Down in 2019 Budget Proposal

Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer distributes copies of Supervisor Jay Schneiderman's tentative 2019 town budget proposal to Town Board members on Thursday. Peter Boody photo

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman has proposed a tentative $102.6-million Southampton Town budget for 2019 that would reduce the town property tax rate by 1 percent and reduce town indebtedness by $23 million even as it increases overall spending by at least 3 percent.

In a budget message he delivered to the Town Board on Thursday, September 27, the supervisor — who is running for Suffolk County comptroller this fall — said it was the 19thconsecutive budget with a tax-rate reduction that he has proposed or helped prepare over his 20 years in public office as the town supervisor of Southampton and East Hampton towns and as the county legislator for the South Fork.

He noted that “one reason we’re able to do this” is the steady rise in Southampton Town’s total assessed valuation to about $67 billion, or a per capita valuation of about $1 million for each of the town’s 60,000 full-time residents. “It’s unheard of,” he said of that ratio, adding that he knew of “nowhere else in the country” with a similar per-capita valuation. It puts the town in “a very strong financial position,” he said. Mr. Schneiderman said the past year saw a 5-percent rise in the town’s assessed valuation, half of it from new construction.

Mr. Schneiderman said the town was “lucky” that it is able to fully fund its pension liabilities without having to borrow against future revenues, which many municipalities must do.

The budget proposal includes $500,000 more than last year for the Highway Department because insurance and workers compensation costs were less than expected, he said. The budget plan also earmarks $1 million to reduce the need to borrow money through bonding for capital projects.

The budget includes funding for one additional full-time police officer; one additional assistant to the town engineer; an additional senior administrative assistant in the parks department and the conversion from part-time to full-time of an assistant position in the assessor’s office.

Salaries for elected officials under the spending plan will rise approximately 2 percent to $119,490 for the supervisor; $113,655 for town clerk and superintendent of highways, $102,831 for tax receiver; $76,584 for four town justices and $67,111 for four other justices; $33,454 for the Town Trustee president; and $26,388 for each of the four town trustees.

The supervisor proposes spending $72,617,972 on employee salaries and benefits including retirees, up 3.06 percent over the current budget; $1,981,959 on equipment, up 28.82 percent over the current year; $13,605,493 on contractual expenses, up less than one percent; and $8,979,496 on debt service, up 8.65 percent over the current year.

The Town Board may make changes to the spending plan before it adopts a preliminary 2019 budget proposal, which will be the subject of public hearings in Town Hall on October 23 at 6 p.m. and November 13 at 1 p.m. The board will adopt a final budget on November 20.

The board was scheduled to hold a special meeting today, Thursday, October 6, at 11 a.m. to consider any amendments and convert the proposal from a tentative to a preliminary budget and to schedule the October 23 hearing. The board will also schedule a public hearing to consider any increases proposed in the maximum amount to be expended annually in the town’s special taxing districts.

At the special meeting at which he presented the budget plan, Supervisor Schneiderman thanked Town Comptroller Len Marchese and his department for their assistance.