Use caution

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On February 6, I was appointed by a majority of the then four-person Southampton Town Board to fill the seat vacated by our current supervisor. During the two months that I have had the honor of serving on the Town Board, certain issues have consumed a majority of our many work sessions, special meetings, executive sessions, as well as public meetings.

The Town Board has worked diligently and cooperatively on important issues, including the burial of the Long Island Power Authority lines, code enforcement, the Community Preservation Fund, the East Quogue GEIS and the recent code amendments affecting applications for Planned Development Districts. I would further like to commend my colleagues on the board for taking the time to carefully consider and assemble a Green Committee. In that regard, I thank Councilwomen Anna Throne-Holst and Nancy Graboski for assembling a team of voluntary experts who would be unmatched in any other municipality.

Recently, the Town Board passed a unanimous resolution to approve a 10-year capital budget. At the request of the newest board members, myself included, we asked for a process to better deliberate various projects within each of the town’s departments, as well as those being considered going forward. We have been told that, in the past, this process was done with the supervisor’s office and individual department heads only, before it would appear before board members as a resolution sponsored by the supervisor. That practice left board members with very little information prior to passing a resolution.

As a board member, I do not consider this fiscally responsible with regard to our taxpayer dollars. With this in mind, I want to thank Supervisor Linda Kabot for inviting the entire board into this process so, going forward, we are able to carefully scrutinize various capital projects and expenditures, which bind all taxpayers.

However, as the April 1 deadline approached, which mandated the adoption of a new capital budget, little time remained to do what I would consider a thorough examination by the full Town Board, including all departments, department heads and their various related projects. The process, again in contrast to previous years, did include the efforts of our general services administrator and comptroller, who worked long hours with department heads to form a responsible plan that the board ultimately adopted. The 10-year capital budget includes many worthwhile projects that most taxpayers would be very happy to see come to fruition.

However, we must, as fiduciary stewards of taxpayer money, be mindful that our country is in the midst of a recession, which, in my opinion, will only get worse before we will see a rebound. Town Hall is not immune to economic decline and, therefore, we must tread carefully over the next several months, and possibly, years.

With that in mind, I urge my colleagues to carefully scrutinize all indebtedness the current 10-year capital budget plan proposes. Each project must now be separately approved by board resolution prior to any expenditure. While I do not advocate in favor or disfavor of any particular project, I feel all of the projects included in our 10-year capital budget are worthwhile and will vastly improve our infrastructure and town facilities, as well as realize recreational endeavors to benefit the entire town.

I am merely suggesting that we treat the town’s finances much the way our families will treat theirs, as we brace for what could be a lengthy economic downturn. In doing so, we may prevent future tax increases to what is an already overbearing burden for many of our town residents.

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