McGintee cuts to “stop the bleed” in East Hampton

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Supervisor Bill McGintee laid out a list this week of recommended cuts to the town’s 2008 budget that he said would “stop the bleed” of money from town coffers and set the town on the path to reducing its more than $8 million deficit.

The supervisor recommended approximately $750,000 in cuts from many town departments at Tuesday’s work session in Montauk. The cuts would balance the amount that he and the Town Board set to be drawn from a fund balance in the 2008 budget—a balance that, in fact, vanished after the 2006 and 2007 budgets were revealed to have been overspent by a total of more than $10 million.

The supervisor said that the first step to getting the town back into the black is to make sure the 2008 budget does not add to the deficit.

The cuts he proposed on Tuesday did not include any layoffs of town employees but did put off or eliminate the filling of some positions that have been vacated. The supervisor has been publicly criticized by political opponents for adding dozens of positions since taking office while town spending ballooned and has said that layoffs and tax hikes may be necessary to erase the deficit.

Tuesday’s list of savings, he said, was just the first step in a plan that he said he will bring to the board over the next three weeks. It will halt the growth of the deficit, rein in “runaway costs” so that future budgets are not overspent and begin rebuilding the once ample fund balance.

“I took it upon myself to make some necessary cuts,” the supervisor said on Tuesday, though he added that his recommendations are not set in stone and that he wanted other board members to review them. “These are my recommendations. I welcome your input.”

The largest of the savings the supervisor proposed was some $191,000 in police salary and overtime costs by not replacing a number of retiring officers until late in the year.

Many of the other savings outlined by Mr. McGintee also depended on keeping positions remaining vacant until after the current fiscal year. A vacant fire marshal’s position will remain empty, with the two remaining marshals given raises and asked to cover the extra workload—a savings of $43,000, the supervisor said.

Money for a $33,000 archeological study will be cut, as will $26,000 for a paralegal in the Town Attorney’s office, $27,900 for a clerk-typist in the Town Clerk’s office, and $25,000 for a human services position. The Town Parks Department will save $23,000 by waiting until the end of the year to replace a full-time mechanic who is retiring and putting off the hiring of three laborers. The Department of Youth Services can save $30,000 by putting off filling a recreational aide position and the Natural Resources Department will save $70,000 by not replacing two departing environmental technicians.

The town’s buildings and grounds department will realize a $23,000 savings by charging the independent Highway Fund, which has a more than $1 million fund balance, for the heating of its buildings, as is done with other departments.

The supervisor said that the cuts he is recommending are in addition to the 5-percent cuts in planned spending that the board has asked all department heads to come up with as part of the effort to keep the 2008 budget balanced. The town’s auditors have warned that the deficit will cause a sharp cash flow problem in the second half of the year, as it did last year, when the budget office borrowed from the Community Preservation Fund balance to pay millions of dollars in bills.

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