By Mara Certic
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell last week released a tentative $73.5 million budget for 2016, which will add enforcement officers, improve infrastructure, address planning needs, all while staying below the state-mandated 2-percent tax cap and maintaining the town’s strong financial position, he said in his budget message.
In the middle of campaign season, Supervisor Cantwell announced his $73,544,041 spending plan, which calls for a 1.8-percent tax increase. For a house with a market value of $1.37 million, taxes would increase by $5.60 inside the villages of East Hampton and Sag Harbor, and by $48.20 outside of the village.
“The 2016 tentative operating budget for the Town of East Hampton further improves the quality of life for our residents by providing funding to bolster enforcement of the town code and laws, addressing planning needs for infrastructure improvements, and ensuring that internal controls are in place to protect our assets,” Supervisor Cantwell wrote in his budget message.
Included in the budget is $625,000 to pay for the benefits and salaries of six new full-time employees, including three police officers, one code enforcement officer, one building inspector and an assistant town attorney. The plan also converts a part-time fire marshal position to a full-time one, and adds $82,500 for part-time seasonal help and overtime in the police and marine patrol departments.
The new hires will bring the police department up to 65 sworn officers but, Supervisor Cantwell noted, it does so in a cost-effective way.
“For example, in the case of retiring senior officers, the town board filled those vacancies with on-board, experienced staff and replaced those officers with new, less costly recruits,” he explained.
In order to get a handle on the littering and dumping that goes on in the town, particularly during the busy summer months, the budget adds two seasonal employees for the Parks Department in order to expand the summer cleanup programs. The baseline level of full-time employees will be 313—about 100 fewer than in the 2008 budget, but six more than the 2013 budget.
The tentative budget includes a $50,000 line item for engineering infrastructure improvements, as well as $22,000 to upgrade the town website in order to provide residents with emergency e-mail notifications and other improvements, and $155,000 for water quality monitoring and improvements.
The budget also sees the salaries of the four town board members increase from $64,245 last year to $65,851 in this year’s budget; the supervisor’s salary will be bumped up from $102,792 to $105,362.
“The tentative budget provides the funds necessary for the education, health, well-being and safety of our residents; the fair and effective enforcement of our town code and laws; as well as protection for the environment and advances in infrastructure and technology,” Supervisor Cantwell stated.
“This budget accomplishes a lot while not piercing the state-mandated tax cap. It keeps tax rates down and limits spending increases. We are achieving all of this by cutting costs and applying those resources to address the major issues of concern to the residents of the Town of East Hampton, today and in the future.”
The board has scheduled a November 5 hearing on the budget. The spending plan must be adopted by November 20.