Facing reality

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In response to last week’s editorial [“Getting real,” December 10], I would like to clarify my position on the 2009 budget, as my points were apparently not heard.

I did not vote for the budget because I am concerned about revenue shortfall. Considering the current economy, I do not feel that the $4 million that is supposed to come from the mortgage tax is a reachable amount.

Also, when asked to vote on the 2009 budget, I had not yet received the separate Community Preservation Fund budget. How can I vote for a general budget when it will be significantly affected by a budget no one has seen yet? It appears, for example, that parks department employees are having employment costs incorrectly allocated to the CPF budget. If this is the case, and we have already decided upon the general budget, what recourse will residents have?

Beach parking fees were estimated in the budget at $250,000. I believe in user fees, but they have to work. The $250,000 figure was generated from a comparison to the number of permits sold at the transfer station. There is no reason to believe that an equal number of people will purchase parking stickers. We are asking residents to pay an annual fee of $25 for the first vehicle and $10 for the second vehicle. How many residents will decide to walk or ride bikes instead? In addition to creating a revenue shortfall, which users are really going to be affected? Families in the Springs, who in many cases have to travel the farthest, will likely face a disproportionate share of the burden. On the other hand, if we ask all households to equally share the responsibility, it would likely only cost between $7 and $10 per household.

On the other side of the budget, I have no problem with the estimated expenses, which is an accurate accounting of what is required to operate the government at its current level. I do, however, take issue with the fact that in the past two years there have been approximately $1.8 million in new hires, which suggests room for government cutbacks. I believe that the government can return to 2005 levels of service without causing undue service disruptions.

Finally, I am disappointed that the board has not yet moved to a leaf bagging or mulching program, and the board has similarly failed to move to a recycling bag program (such as the one in Southampton). I have been advocating this since last March. Both programs would save us a considerable amount of money.

I could not vote for the budget because I am afraid that this irresponsible accounting will drive the town into yet another deficit year. I am not burying my head in the sand; indeed, my vote is about confronting the realities that the town faces while we are still able to do so.

JULIA PRINCEEast Hampton Town Councilwoman

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