Village Board considers budget

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Southampton Village residents could see as much as a 9 percent increase in their taxes when the Village Board adopts its proposed $19.8 million budget for 2008-2009 later this month.

Employee salaries and the rising cost of fuel are among the chief reasons cited for the village’s projected $1.66 million hike in spending. As it now stands, the village property tax rate will increase from $13.58 per $100 of assessed value to $14.81 per $100 next year, if the spending plan is adopted.

The actual tax increase will likely be a few percentage points lower, as village administrator Jim Van Nostrand continues to massage the numbers. An earlier draft of the proposed budget called for a 10.7 percent tax increase, and Mayor Mark Epley said the Village Board will further reduce that figure by not purchasing some of the new equipment requested by various departments.

Not a single member of the public showed up at the Village Board’s public hearing on the budget, held last Thursday, April 10. Mr. Van Nostrand said that tells him residents are either unaware of the process, or satisfied with the police and fire protection and other services provided by the village.

The Southampton Village Police Department budget was slated to rise 7 percent during the third round of number crunching, but further cuts reduced the increase to 5.5 percent, or $273,469. Most of the spending increase in the police budget is for overtime pay, which is set to rise from $170,000 to $319,280, an 88 percent swell. The mayor stated that $319,280 is a “realistic number,” considering how much the police department has spent on overtime this year—$100,000 more than the $170,000 originally budgeted.

Among the other budgeted increases:

The parks department is expected to double its $10,000 overtime budget and increase its allocation for seasonal and part-time workers by 110 percent, to $33,600.

The fire department is requesting a 7 percent budget increase—from $492,794 to $527,339—mostly to cover the rising cost of fuel, Fire Chief Joe Corr explained. The village’s central garage is seeking an extra $55,000 for gasoline, a 50 percent increase.

This year’s budget originally allocated $14,400 to pay the mayor’s salary and $7,200 for each of the four trustees. However, board members approved raises for themselves earlier this year and, as a result, next year’s budget allocates $25,000 for the mayor, a 74 percent increase, and $15,000 for each of the trustees, more than doubling their salaries.

The building department is looking to increase the fire marshal’s compensation from $8,000 to $15,500, a 94 percent raise. It is also budgeting nearly double what it usually spends on a zoning consultant, increasing that budget line from $12,000 to $23,000.

On the revenue side of things, $14.1 million is expected from the tax levy and another $5.7 million will come from sources such as state aid, interest payments, county sales tax revenue, building inspection fees and parking permits.

The board could reduce the tax hike by increasing the non-tax revenue estimate, Mr. Van Nostrand said, but the administrator is not recommending that. Non-tax revenues are hit-or-miss, he said. For example, during an unseasonably cold or wet summer—the prime beach season—revenues from beach parking permits and chair and umbrella rentals would likely dry up, he said.

Another way to balance the budget is to tap into the village’s surplus fund balance—money the village has accumulated through unexpected revenue over the years—which amounts to about 30 percent of the size of the budget, Mr. Van Nostrand said. While he prefers to hold on to the fund balance in case of an emergency, the administrator said the board could apply part of the balance to the budget.

The next public hearing on the budget will be during the Village Board’s April 22 work session at Village Hall starting at 5 p.m.

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