Motivated by the Southampton Town Board’s recent move to commit to the construction of an aquatic facility and community center in Westhampton, former Southampton Town Councilman Steve Kenny paid a visit to a Town Board meeting last Friday to applaud the action.
Mr. Kenny, who stepped down from his post last year, stood at the podium across from the chair he once occupied and voiced his support not only for the allocation of the funds to build the pool and community center, but also for a change in fiscal policy recently adopted by Town Hall.
The town recently appropriated $2 million in direct funds to construct the Southampton Aquatic Recreation Center, with $4 million to follow over the next two years. Another direct appropriation was also set aside for the construction of the community center.
The shift in fiscal policy that inspired Mr. Kenny to speak during the meeting’s public portion focuses on how funds in the capital budget will be allocated in the future. It also calls for a stricter adherence to a policy of using property taxes and fees to pay for the day-to-day costs of running the town and less reliance on mortgage tax revenues for tax relief and operational expenses.
With growing economic anxieties and a souring real estate market, town officials have argued that fewer mortgage taxes in town coffers could forecast turbulent times, necessitating the shift toward a more fiscally conservative approach.
During Mr. Kenny’s eight-year tenure on the board, the town low-balled its mortgage revenue intake and used the excess to balance the budget and suppress the tax rate.
The policy of “pay as you go” and holding on a little more tightly to capital reserves is one Mr. Kenny said the town should have been practicing all along. “We should have done this in the past,” Mr. Kenny said to his three former colleagues and the two newcomers on the board. “I’m very impressed.”
But when Town Councilman Dan Russo asked Mr. Kenny if he wanted his post back, the former councilman replied, “No, thank you very much.”